Dateline: 25th October, 2009

The Tokyo Gaijin turned up at Yanokuchi Field out near Chofu to play Fuji Club. Despite having beaten them over the past few years Fuji Club always gave the Gaijin a close game. Today was to be a real Litmus Test as the Gaijin were missing both Captain Murray Clarke and Vice Captain Matt Downer. They were also missing two of their best players in Toby Gallagher and Paulo de Berriozabal to injury.

 

 

With the Gaijin kicking off, things didn`t auger well for them, when Dave Kelver was called for knocking on the kickoff when it was plain for everyone to see that in fact a Fuji forward had knocked it on. Watchers were worried that it was going to be yet another inept refereeing performance.

 

The first penalty however went to the Gaijin after Matt Stride was hit in a late tackle after putting through a kick. The penalty was given where the ball had bounced and Stride dusted himself off to calmly pot the three points and take the Gaijin out to an early 3v0 lead.

 

Fuji Club were next to look dangerous and were unlucky not to come away with some points after a good run by one of their backs but Daisuke Ikeda pulled him down on the line and Bati helped hold him up. A relieving penalty was then given to the Gaijin as the tackled player did not release the ball despite the tenacious Bati trying with all his might to pull it away. That`s the first three penalties to the Gaijin. A rare thing indeed!

 

The Gaijin managed to work their way upfield to the opposition 22 meter line. THey were then awarded another penalty for a ruck infringement from a point closer to the posts than where Stride had converted the previous penalty. Despite pleas from his team mates and some supporters on the sideline for a shot at another 3  points the over enthusiastic Bati tapped and ran at the retreating defense. Unfortunately he slipped and knocked the ball on and the advantageous position (and the possible 3 points) he was hoping for went missing.

 

Soon after, Alaister Nimmo slipped a beautiful short ball to big Mauro Sauco, who palmed off a few would-be tacklers in a 30 metre run. Unfortunately, he slammed his head against the ground as he was bought down in a copybook tackle around the legs, lost the ball forward and knocked himself out. He had to be taken off with concussion.

Shortly after however, the Gaijin were able to increase their lead when Apisai Bati, making up for his earlier rush of blood, ran from the base of the scrum and beat a few would-be defenders to touch down mid-way between sideline and goal posts. Matt Stride was unable to convert but the Gaijin had a handy 8v0 lead.

 

Bati was in the thick of the action again soon after when the opposition went long in a lineout  straight into his hands at the back. After a handy gain of 10 metres he handed the ball off to lock Richard O’Shea who also managed to get the ball away in the tackle to Tomo Togo. The ensuing ruck seemed to be moving forward but the referee was quick to blast his whistle and slow play down for a scrum feed to the opposition. It was good to see the Gaijin forwards backing each other up well and slipping the ball away in the tackle. Obviously the referee preferred the slower pace of scrums!

 

Fuji Club knew they had to score before halftime to keep themselves in the contest and they did just the thing with a try to the left of the posts which was duly converted. That made the halftime score a very close 8v7 to the Gaijin. The Gaijin had looked the better team in the half but it was still tight and anybody`s game. The forwards, led by Bati, Dave Kelver and O'Shea, had laboured hard to make up for the missing forward leaders in Gallagher and de Berriozabal. Dave Kelver's excellent jumping had reduced the Fuji lineout to resorting to throwing long or very short to the front. Their long balls usually went straight to Bati at the back so they needed to fix that in the second half or they would lose valuable possession.

 

Fuji Club started the second half with victory on their mind. The Gaijin were penalised for offside early in the half and soon had their opposition breathing down their necks on the tryline. Good defense however held up an attacker over the line. Further pressure had the Gaijin looking vunerable until Apisai Bati made an excellent turnover and Matt Stride relieved some pressure with a booming kick down field.

The next 10 minutes saw a lot of movement in the middle 50 metres of the field as bad passes would put pressure on both teams and then a relieving kick would follow. The Gaijin got the next chance to go ahead when a maul from a lineout was pulled down, however Matt Stride missed the penalty attempt. To relieve the spectators of the poor handling and clearing kicks Daisuke Ikeda decided to liven things up with a stinging

hit on the Fuji outside centre. He caught his opponent blindside and smashed him off his feet. Not being of particularly big stature, he is not known for big hits, but it was definitely the tackle of the day.

 

During the remaining 20 minutes of the game the Gaijin started to become frustrated with the referee's calls and their own inability to put the game out of reach from Fuji Club. A dubious late charge call led to a 5 Meter lineout for Fuji from the penalty. Apisai Bati, doing what he does best, made another steal and a huge clearance from Matt Stride got the Gaijin out of immediate danger, but with the constant silly penalties, a penalty attempt at goal was surely on the cards for Fuji club....if they could get close enough. Another late hit gave the Fuji Club much needed territory but another  great Daisuke tackle forced a knockon.In what was becoming a pattern, Apisai Bati, coming across in cover defense, smashed the Fuji winger into touch with a head high tackle. By then the referee had lost his patience and out came the yellow card. Bati was to spend 10 or the last 12 minutes on the sideline. The referee was left no choice as it did look quite malicious but to the wingers credit he got straight back up and played on.

 

The TGRFC may have lost equality in the eyes of the referee after that as on more than two ocasions he called play back when playing the advantage would have benefitted the Gaijin more than pushing against an 8 man scrum one player short. Joffa Harris made a steal from a lineout and  made 15 meters upfield but was called back because Fuji had not thrown the ball in straight. Where is the advantage? Shortly after, a Gaijin maul had come to a split second halt. The referee was quick on the whistle and ordered a scrum to the Gaijin. With only 7 men they would have prefered the referee to let the game flow.

 

Finally with just a minute left on the clock, the Fuji Club got what they were wishing for, earning a penalty on the Gaijin 22 metre line just to the left of centre. Their kicker calmly potted the three points to give them the lead and the victory. Final result 10v8 to Fuji Club. The Gaijin had played a poor second half and let frustration get the better of them. They had been penalised 4 times in a 10 minute spell for high tackles and poor handling had ruined every attacking chance. In the forwards Bati, Kelver Chris Lucas and O'Shea led the way. In the backs Matt Stride had relieved a lot of pressure with his booming kicks and Daisuke Ikeda had made some excellent tackles, but in general, the backs had never really looked like threatening the Fuji backline.

 

What made things worse for the TGRFC boys as they downed beers to drown their sorrows after the game was that Fuji Club had thus far failed to beat any of the other teams in the league. With All Jin Jan winning every game handsomely after their defeat at the hands of the Gaijin todays loss may come back to haunt the TGRFC.

 

Ultimately the TGRFC failed the Litmus Test and proved that they struggle without captain Murray Clarke, vice-captain Matt Downer and forward leaders Paulo de Berriozabal and Toby Gallagher. Get fit and well soon boys!

 

SCORE: FUJI 10 (1 try, 1 conversion, 1 penalty) TGRFC 8 (Apisai Bati 1 try; Matt Stride 0/1 conversions, 1/2 penalties)

Man of the Match: Chris Lucas

Goat of the Match: Apisai Bati (for the yellow card)

TEAM:

1. Chris Lucas (Australia)

2. Toru Kanamori (Japan)

3. Warren Adamson (South Africa)

4. Richard O’Shea (Wales)

5. Mauro Sauco (Argentina)

6. Aaron Nutsford (New Zealand)

7. Dave Kelver (USA)

8. Apisai Bati (Fiji)

9. Rory Brown (South Africa)

10. Matt Stride (Australia)

11. Daisuke Ikeda (Japan)

12. Alaister Nimmo (England)

13. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)

14. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)

15. Blake Walker (New Zealand)

Reserves: Joffa Harris (Australia), Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland), Yusuke Koybayashi (Japan), Junnosuke Nakamura(Japan), Jeff Cutler (USA), Yoshihiro Sato (Japan), Charles Joffre (France)