Date: March 17th 2019
Venue: Mizumoto Sports Center Park
After an all-out war of attrition in the pouring rain against Chiba Barbarians in the first week of March, the Gaijin were carrying their fair share of bumps, bruises and minor tickles. As such, being granted a week off at the behest of stand-in captain, Tom McCullough, was welcomed with open arms by most of the boys.
So, two weeks after the Barbarians had been “put to the sword”, a rejuvenated Gaijin side took to the field once more. Their opponents were Dasewa Rugby Football Club, a dogged yet altogether underwhelming side. The 33-10 score line could (and probably should) have been more, but once again the Gaijin lacked consistency throughout the 60-minute affair. All in all, it was a performance with improved discipline at the breakdown, courageous defence in the final third and better tactical kicking, but still strewn with a few to many handling errors and, at times, a lack of composure. With Tokyo Cup looming on the immediate horizon, these are issues that will need to be addressed in relatively short order.
It was a beautiful St. Patricks Day afternoon when the 1.15pm kick-off time arrived, and the Gaijin got into the game right from the get-go. Vice-captain Tom McCullough leapt through the air like a freshwater salmon (and equally as pink in the afternoon sun) to catch Mosese Rarasea’s well-placed kick. The Gaijin followed this with an extended period of pressure which eventually led to the first try through right wing, Jay Murasa, the first of his Gaijin career. After a well-worked move down the short side, and good feet and awareness from full-back Ryosuke Okawara, Murasa crossed the line in the right-hand corner of the pitch. Out-half Daisuke Teraoka would miss the conversion, but the Gaijin were off to exactly the kind of start they were hoping for.
The opening 15 minutes were completely dominated by the yellow and navy’s as a result of astute tactical kicking through half backs David McElhinney and Daisuke Teraoka, who continuously pinned Dasewa back into their own 22′ with well-placed boots. As the old adage goes, you’ve got to play the game in the right areas of the field, and eventually this territorial dominance bore yet more fruit. A little dink from McElhinney over a ruck just outside the Dasewa 22′ bounced like a dream for the on-rushing McCullough who gladly collected unopposed to score the Gaijin’s second try. Teraoka added the extra 2 points, leaving the scores at 12-0.
Two scores down and scarcely a lick of territory thus far, the Dasewa heads could easily have gone down, even at this early stage of the game. But alas, that was not to be the case. The next 10-minutes saw a spirited fightback from the men in blue (albeit with a little help from the referee). In spite of some great last-ditch tackles from the Gaijin pack, the prolonged period of pressure eventually led to a score for Dasewa with 25 minutes on the clock. It would not be converted to leave the scores at 12-5.
The Gaijin were almost left to rue some poor defensive errors on the stroke of half time when the Dasewa backline sliced through theirs like a hot-knife through butter. TWICE! Save for some great scramble defense it could have been all to play for at the half-time break. Eventually on the 30-minute mark McElhinney put the ball in to touch to bring a close to the opening exchanges.
An uneventful start to the second-half was spiced up a little when Dasewa’s outside-centre upended half-time substitute, John Simpson, in a tip tackle that could have ended horrifically for the big man from Maine. The referee had made a specific reference to his zero-tolerance policy towards dangerous play during the pre-game briefing, yet not only kept the offending player on the field, but actually reversed the penalty for a justifiably incensed Gaijin reaction. On any day in the modern game a tackle like that should elicit a straight red card, no questions asked. End of story.
The Gaijin were pinned back into their own 22′ from the resulting penalty, but escaped well after good carrying from Simpson, McCullough and Gorka Gerediaga, which was followed by another box kick from McElhinney putting the Gaijin back into the Dasewa danger zone. This almost led to the fourth score of the game as prop, Tommy “Chugoku” Nasuno, charged down the Dasewa stand-off 5 metres from their line and nearly caught up with the ball before it rolled dead. If only he had gone a little easier on the gyoza the night before.
Not long after the Gaijin would get a deserved third score after an overthrown Dasewa lineout inside their own 22′. Mosese Rarasea collected nicely at the back and the Fijian battering ram was too rambunctious to be stopped in his pursuit of the whitewash. Teraoka would convert to make it 19-5 and the Gaijin had finally put some much-needed daylight between the two sides.
After a period of disjointed play from both sides the Gaijin would run in another couple of tries in quick succession to put the final nails in the Dasewa coffin. The first came through captain Louie Hamilton after a quick tap from McElhinney and good support from Ryosuke Okawara who was tackled 5 metres short of the line. The ball was then shipped across the backline for Hamilton to touch down on the far side. Teraoka would convert to make it 26-5.
Substitute winger, Mosese Nasegesege, also got his name on the scoresheet following a turnover inside the Dasewa half. Silky hands were shown across the backline before Nasegesege showed good strength to brush off a few tackles, allowing him to run one in under the sticks. Teraoka was on form off the tee again today, making it 4 from 5 with the boot and giving the Gaijin a convincing 33-5 lead going into the dying embers of the match.
The last play of the game summed up one of the Gaijin’s biggest weaknesses this season. On collecting the kick-off, the Gaijin tried to run the ball from within their own territory. A loose pass followed and a Dasewa player collected the ball. Thanks to some sub-standard defending they managed break down the left-hand side to score a consolation try in the corner. The kick was not converted to leave the final scores at 33 points to 10. Why the ball wasn’t put directly into touch from the kick-off is still not all that clear.
At the end of the day it was another win for the Gaijin, their fifth on the bounce, and the Katsushika League seemingly in the bag. These are positives that they should certainly take from this game. When the Gaijin play to their systems and keep a cool collective head, they can be a very difficult side to beat. However, as we have become accustomed of late, the Gaijin were guilty of throwing paint all over the proverbial canvas at times. When they start forcing 50/50 offloads, running the ball from the wrong areas and a lack of intelligent decision-making creeps in, they can be the architects of their own demise. They have gotten away with in the Katsushika League this season, but in the Tokyo Cup they may not be so fortunate.
SCORE: TGRFC 33 (Jay Murasa 1, Tom McCullough 1, Mosese Rarasea 1, Louie Hamilton 1, Mosese Nasegesege 1 tries; Daisuke Teraoka 4/5 conversions) DASEWA 10 (2 tries; 0/2 conversions)
MVP: Tom McCullough (A nuisance at the breakdown as always and scorer of a try that was simply, simply, lovely).
GOAT: Mosese Rarasea (Tried to start a war with the opposition)
SPECIAL GOAT: Tommy Nasuno (Severely delayed post-match court proceedings)