Dateline: September 10th, 2017
The Tokyo Gaijin RFC started their 2017 campaign in style, defeating the Kichioji Wild Turkeys 64 v 17 in a 9 tries to 2 romp. Paddy Watson inflated the score with a near perfect 8 from 9 conversions and a well-taken drop goal and a try to give him a personal tally of 24 points..
The Gaijin gathered at Katsushika Niijuku Mirai Park Sports Field with a strong squad but a tad short with only 20 players (as opposed to the allowed 23). Former captain Apisai Bati was having his first run for the year as was fellow Fijian Sovita Tui. There were also two newcomers in Andrew Mills (NZ) and Rob Fero – both forwards. Mills had not played rugby for 30 years – holy smokes!
The Gaijin started well and it was soon obvious that their scrum was going to be a constant headache for the Wild Turkeys, with the first two scrums ending up in crumpled messes with Gaijin forwards on top of their opposition. This strong platform led to a territorial dominance and it wasn’t long before Fijian center Sovita Tui had smashed through a few tackles and raced 20 meters to score.
His center partner Alex Auldy scored the next and with both converted by Paddy Watson the Gaijin were out to a quick 14 v 0 lead.
Then it was Kichioji’s turn to have some decent possession and the Gaijin defense was found wanting. The Wild Turkeys scored after some strong charges and converted to make the score 14 v 7 to the Gaijin.
The next points came very quickly for the Gaijin. A good chase of the kickoff by Joffa Harris forced a dropped ball and Harris picked it up and popped it to a rampaging Donny Tanaka charging up in support. One quick ruck later and standoff Paddy Watson surprised everyone by snapping a 35 meter drop goal. Score: 17 v 7 to the Gaijin.
Watson was on the score sheet again soon after with his own try and successful conversion to increase the Gaijin lead to 24 v 7.
Captain Tomohiro Setoguchi increased the lead when he crashed over between the posts and then Takashi Tanikawa rounded off the first half scoring with a well-deserved try. Both tries were converted by Watson giving the Gaijin a nice 38 v 7 lead at halftime.
In the break only one change was made. Andrew Mills came on to replace Joffa Harris for that first game in 30 years. That was one senior for another with both well into their 40’s. Later Sean Robinson would take the field and lower the average age quite a bit as he is still in his teens.
At halftime the message to the Gaijin was to keep going the same way. While the set piece had been strong, the rucks were messy and tackling was rather ordinary so the latter two skills needed to be improved, but possession was king and keeping the ball would negate the need for excessive tackling.
The Gaijin started the second half brightly with fullback Travis Drury cutting through the defense on halfway and racing 50 meters to score with Watson converting to now make the lead a comfortable 45 v 5.
Not long after Sovita Tui made a strong break and passed onto fellow Fijian Apisai Bati who continued the move. As the defense converged he managed to slip the ball to Alex Auldy who put in a chip kick down the left flank. Lock Liam Ramshaw showed great support to dive on the loose ball and a few recycles later Nik Pavesic dived over the try line from the back of a ruck, just to the left of the posts. Watson again converted making the score 52 v 7.
The Kichioji Wild Turkeys finally got a second try when some strong, consistent charges meant the Gaijin simply ran out of defenders. Their conversion made the score a bit more respectable but there was still a long way for them to go to catch up. Score: 52 v 14.
They looked to add to their points when they went straight through the Gaijin defensive wall straight from the kickoff after a fortuitous bounce. A few rucks later though and Nik Pavesic had stolen the ball in a ruck and got the Gaijin out of trouble. The Wild Turkeys kept the pressure on though and earnt themselves a penalty about 25 meters out and right in front of the posts. Despite being 28 points behind they pointed to the sticks. Crazy! The penalty was duly converted and they had now pulled themselves to within 25 points – just 4 converted tries away. Score: TGRFC 52 v 17 Kichioji Wild Turkeys.
The Wild Turkeys hopes of closing the gap quickly disappeared when a pushover scrum led to No.8 Takashi Tanikawa getting his second try for the day. Watson converted making the score line 59 v 17 to the Gaijin.
Good interplay between Nikola Pavesic and Padddy Watson looked like adding more points for the Gaijin but Sota Kaneko blew it by knocking the ball on.
Late in the game the Gaijin had one last throw of the dice. Good defense kept the Wild Turkeys pinned in their 22 meter area and they even started going backwards. Eventually, a driving Alex Auld tackle forced his opponent inside his own goal area and forced a 5 meter scrum, with Gaijin feed. The Gaijin went close to scoring a number of times and the referee got fed up with their oppositions spoiling tactics and awarded a penalty to the Gaijin. Veteran Apisai Bati took a quick tap and crashed over the line to score the final try about 10 meters in from touch. Paddy Watson missed his only one of the day leaving the score at 64 v 17 to the Gaijin.
It was a comprehensive victory for the Gaijin. Their powerful scrum had laid a strong platform and enabled their backs to get good front foot ball. Their lineout was also solid with Nic Pavesic taking all the required balls sent his way.
The Kichioji Wild Turkeys looked good with ball in hand and found holes easily in the Gaijin defense when they persisted with running the ball, but all too often they kicked the ball away presenting the Gaijin backs more chances to attack.
For the Gaijin, Nicola Pavesic was the pick of the forwards. He took possession of all balls thrown his way as number two lineout jumper, and took a number of kickoff receptions and made numerous breaks through the Wild Turkeys defensive line. Takashi Tanikawa was close behind and made numerous runs from the back of the scrum as he benefitted from his team’s strong scrummaging. Liam Ramshaw, the team’s best hooker, did a sterling job at lock and made numerous strong charges, However, the forwards will need to improve upon their speed to the ruck, and effectiveness at it, if they want to give the title a nudge.
In the backs Paddy Watson led his charges around the field adeptly. His booming right boot was also responsible for many gained meters. Sovita Tui and Alex Auldy in the centers made lots of breaks and caused trouble for the defense all day with their strong running. At the back Travis Drury was solid and cut into the backline regularly to cause problems for the Wild Turkeys.
Referee: Shinsuke Kaneda
Man of Match: Nikola Pavesic (chosen by team management), Sovita Tui (chosen by opposition)
SCORE: TGRFC 64 (T. Tanikawa 2, S. Tui 1, A. Auldy 1, P. Watson 1, T. Setoguchi 1, T. Drury 1, N. Pavesic 1, A. Bati 1 tries: P. Watson 8/9 conversions, 1 drop goal) Kichioji Wild Turkeys 17 (2 tries, 2/2 conversions, 1/1 penalties)
1. Tommy Nasuno (Japan)
2. Tomohiro Setoguchi (c) (Japan)
3. Donny Tanaka (Japan)
4. Joffa Harris (Australia)
5. Liam Ramshaw (England)
6. Glen Amos (England)
7. Nikola Pavesic (Croatia)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Sota Kaneko (Japan)
10. Paddy Watson (Canada)
11. Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)
12. Sovita Tui (Fiji)
13. Alexander Auldy (New Zealand)
14. Thomas Ballan (France)
15. Travis Drury (Australia)
16. Tsukasa Takasugi (Japan)
17. Sean Robinson (USA)
17. Andrew Mills (NZ)
18. Apisai Bati (Fiji)
19. Yachila Rasanjana (Sri Lanka)
20. Rob Fero (Italy)