Dateline: 28th October, 2018
Venue: Inagi Nagamine Verdy Field
The 4th round of the Shuto League saw the Tokyo Gaijin RFC come up against Crusaders RFC. The match between the two premier expat teams in Japan is always eagerly anticipated and is often a bruising encounter. The Gaijin have held a slight dominance over the past 8 years except for one big win to the Crusaders two years ago and a draw, but the matches are always close fought contests.
For the second game in a row, the Gaijin were struggling to fill their backline while the Crusaders had a heavy bench. Once again the Gaijin would have to fill some gaps in the backline with forwards. Eighteen year old lock Sean Robinson would play his 4th game in a row on the wing. Flanker Kouichi Morita would move to outside centre and fellow flanker Mino Abe would play his very first game for the Gaijin at fullback. Daisuke Teraoka, who has only played 7’s and 10’s for the Gaijin, would be helping out the team at standoff. There were another two new recruits, Macky Womack, who would fill the only reserve back slot, despite also being a loose forward and his buddy Torrey Benware, who had only played one game of rugby union in his life and guessed he was a back. The rest of the reserves were forwards.
The Crusaders kickoff was taken by Glen Amos but he coughed up the ball in the first tackle. This immediately put the Crusaders in a strong position and after several strong runs they were soon pounding away close to the Gaijin line but the defense was up to the task. After 5 minutes of defending or going nowhere with the ball the Gaijin finally got up to halfway after a penalty from their opponents not releasing the ball after the tackle.
In the 7th minute Nikola Pavesic made a bust into the Crusaders half and a clever around the corner pass as he came to the last defender put Tom McCullough into space and he raced 30 metres to score under the posts. Chris O’Sullivan converted to give the Gaijin a 7 v 0 lead.
In the 10th minute the Crusaders came roaring back. From a lineout win on the right, the ball was passed along the backline and a phase or two later their standoff crashed over on the left to score. The conversion was unsuccessful leaving the Gaijin with a slight 7 v 5 lead.
The Gaijin then went back on attack in the Crusaders 22 metre area. The Gaijin were awarded 3 penalties in a row just outside the Crusaders line with the bigger Crusaders pack having trouble holding the Gaijin scrum back. It must have been getting close to yellow card time when the Gaijin scrum finally managed to push their way over the line without a collapse or a screwed scrum. No.8 Takashi Tanikawa just had to dive on the ball at the back to secure the points in what was essentially a reward to all the Gaijin forwards for their scrum dominance. O’Sullivan again converted to put the Gaijin out to a 14 v 5 lead.
Once again the Crusaders came back with a try and it was to their standoff again. Despite some good defensive efforts from the Gaijin, including being held up in-goal, weight of possession told, and this time they were successful with their conversion. Score: 14 v 12.
The half time whistle was the next big play of the game. As the score line showed it had been a tough, even tussle thus far. The Crusaders were probably expecting their rather large bench to bring home the win while the Gaijin did not have that luxury and were relying on ‘guts’ and ‘heart’ to bring home the win.
Basically captain Tomohiro Setoguchi ordered ‘more of the same’.
The first try of the second half took a fair while to come but it would be the Gaijin that would increase their lead. Takashi Tanikawa stole a ball from a Crusaders ruck inside his own 22 and passed out to Tom McCullough who then put Chris O’Sullivan into space. O’Sullivan turned on his jet-burners and rounded a few defenders then completely wrong-footed the Crusaders fullback to score a lovely 70 metre try. He missed the conversion which is his own fault as he was too tired to run around under the posts and score.
The lead was now 19 v 12.
The Gaijin would go on to score the final try of the game with about 5 minutes to go. Nik Pavesic made a great run to get the Gaijin well into the Crusaders half. After a scrum and a couple of passes, a nice pass from Tomohiro Setoguchi put prop Kosuke Yamamoto into a big hole and he ran around under the posts to score…with his first touch of the ball…as he had just entered the game. O’Sullivan converted to make the final score 26 v 12.
The Gaijin were very happy chappies after the full time whistle, especially after the miserable defeat last week. The forwards were immense against a much bigger pack and the inside backs did a great job in both attack and defense. It was hard to pick a Man of the Match as both Tom McCullough and Nikola Pavesic were standouts in the forwards and Chris O’Sullivan was brilliant in the backs in both attack and defense and a willing participant in the banter being dished out by his opponent backs. Tom McCullough was given the gong for his strong runs in attack and his ‘steely’ defense. He also did a great job of getting under certain opposition players’ skins and putting them off their game.
Mino Abe had a good crack at fullback. Despite being out of position a few times on kicks. He made a couple of handy runs down the wing and did not make himself look silly.
SCORE: TGRFC 26 (Tom McCullough 1, Takashi Tanikawa 1, Chris O’Sullivan 1, Kosuke Yamamoto 1 tries; Chris O’Sullivan 3/4 conversions) Crusaders RFC 12 (2 tries, 1/2 conversions)
MVP: Tom McCullough
1. Akihito Kashiwaba (Japan)
2. Tomohiro Setoguchi © (Japan)
3. Tsunaki ‘Don’ Tanaka (Japan)
4. Glen Amos (England)
5. John Simpson (USA)
6. Nikola Pavesic (Croatia)
7. Tom McCullough (England)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Leonardo Vantini (Italy)
10. Daisuke Teraoka (Japan)
11. Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)
12. Chris O’Sullivan (Ireland)
13. Kouichi Morita (Japan)
14, Sean Robinson (Ireland)
15. Mino Abe (Italy)
Reserves: (16) Kosuke Yamamoto (Japan), (17) Natsuhiko Kunitomo (Japan), (18) Andrew Mills (New Zealand), (19) Joffa Harris (Australia), (20) Manul Udakumbura (Sri Lanka), (21) Mohammed ‘Win’ Irham (Indonesia), (22) Macky Womack (USA) (23) Torrey Benware (USA)
Note: Unused reserves: (17) Natsuhiko Kunitomo (Japan), (18) Andrew Mills (New Zealand), (21) Mohammed ‘Win’ Irham (Indonesia), (23) Torrey Benware (USA)