rom the Utopian surrounds of pastoral Ibaraki to the industry~heavy Chiba coast: such is the way of TGRFC. Home for Idemitsu Oil is in the grounds of their refinery, not far from the arse-end of nowhere, and it was here on a sunny autumn morning that we managed to negotiate for 30 minute halves – much to the chagrin of the opposition who had taken one look at Mauro Sauco and Rob Reinebach and requested 20s.
Within 5 minutes, their fear was manifest when Blake Walker – purportedly the stockiest halfback in Japan – scampered away from the back of a scrum, telegraphed a dummy, and ran in 30 metres to score. However, any suggestion of a cake-walk was dispelled over the remainder of the half as Gaijin made things difficult for themselves in the face of unthreatening but honest resistance. To their credit, Idemitsu made the better running as Gaijin sat back and imperiously expected victory to come. Yet despite a promising dart down the wing by Takeshi Takada, Gaijin were sluggish and heavily reliant on strong defence around the fringes (Harris, Reiniebach) and in midfield (Iwasaki, Conlon) to keep Idemitsu’s increasingly confident charges at bay.
The second half could not have started more poorly. Within 10 minutes, Idemitsu were up 12-5 following two basic moves that carved the Gaijin defence open. Fortunately, their second try – combined with a succinct pep-talk from resting skipper Joe Fisher: “OK, we’re losing.” – served as a wake-up. The Gaijin tight five got angry and stated to push their opposites all over the paddock. Thanks to some good work in the middle row, the lineouts gained some semblance of order despite the absence of an established thrower, and the rucks and mauls began to take on the more land-mine-ravaged aspect that was expected considering the Gaijin size advantage.
A quick tap-penalty and scything run by Heats Devlin caught everyone including the referee napping, but the man in black recovered quickly enough to award the try and annoy the Idemitsu players, most of whom were still 20 metres back lingering and discussing the effects of the Chinese economy on OPEC production and relative output. Probably.
Still down by 2, Gaijin increased the pressure and some sublime rugby by Jyoh Iwasaki – crunching tackle, pick up, 60 metre run, offload to Corey Beatson – almost yielded another score. Then another movement, sparked again by Iwasaki and involving a nice interchange with Steve Bull, was ended only by a forward pass. (Dubious, naturally.) With all this sustained pressure, the inevitable match-winner came: late, but deservedly for 20 minutes of total forward dominance in the second half. Joffa Harris made the most of a Brumbies-style offense/defence wall of Gaijin forwards to sniff out the safest route to the try-line, and was helped over by Blake Walker. In the melee it was uncertain just who got the final, decisive touch but I am willing to cede the point to the man who will give me the most money.
With Richard Beard slotting his customary touchline conversion to complement the two easier ones that he missed, Gaijin ensured a satisfying departure from one of the few remaining oil outposts not yet “liberated” by the Republican Party’s unilateral wet dream.
Final score: 17-12