Dateline: 21st February, 2010
The Tokyo Gaijin gathered out at Shin Shibamata Rugby Ground (a.k.a Edogawa No.3) to play Doronco RFC in a 'friendly' game and to seek atonement for the shellacking they received the week before at the hands of the All France Rugby Club. Two new members in Stephen Dods and Alan Haines, both in their mid 40's were to increase the average age of the club quite markedly.
After a series of forward forays it didn't take long for the Gaijin to get on the score sheets with recent newcomer Mike Ryan showing some razzle-dazzle to cut through the Doronco defence from halfway and round the fullback to score under the posts. Captain Matt Downer converted to have the Gaijin away to a 7v0 lead.
After some excellent Gaijin mauling from a series of lineouts Apisai Bati twinkle-toed down the side line, fending off two players on the way to score in the right corner. Bati had come on just a few minutes earlier to replace flanker Gen Yamazaki who had torn his hamstring with his first touch of the ball. Downer failed to convert leaving the score at 12v0.
Stephen Dods received the following kickoff and gave the ball to fellow Kiwi Mike Ryan, running an excellent line off his shoulder. Ryan was able to make a sizeable inroad into Doronco territory and some good ruck work allowed the Gaijin to get closer to the Doronco tryline. The next try saw some great interpassing between the Gaijin fowards. Bati started it with a nice ball to Ryan who then passed it back to Bati who then swung it to Toby Gallagher. Quick hands then saw it go onto Rob Poulton who managed to get it away in the tackle to Mitsuhiro Saito who took two defenders over the line with him. It was a just reward for good hands and great support work. Downer converted to make the score 19v0.
From the kickoff big Fijian Joe Nawaqavanua smashed through a couple of would-be tacklers and forged into the Doronco side of halfway. From the tackle the ball was spun along the backline to Apisai Bati out on the wing and he once again tiptoed down the sideline to score in the corner. Downer failed to convert and the score at halftime was to be 24v0.
Rob Poulton finished off the scoring in the first half with another try in the right corner. From a lineout the Gaijin mauled towards the Doronco line and Poulton peeled off, and with head down and fend out he rumbled into the corner dragging defenders with him. Downer again failed to convert but his team-mates weren' making it easy for him with three tries in the right corner. Score: 29v0.
The first half was a one-sided affair with the Gaijin making all the play. Their forwards had dominated all the set pieces with Toby Gallagher ruling the lineouts and the Gaijin scrum being rock-solid. They had also mauled well from lineouts making valuable yardage with both Poulton and one of Bati's tries the result of strong mauling in the leadups. Stephen Dods was turning back the clock with 'safe as a bank' kickoff receives. In the backs Joe Nawaqavanua was causing havoc with his powerful surges. The Doronco backs are probably still having nightmares about the big Fijian charging into them. Mike Ryan was also providing the Gaijin with pace from the back and popping up in the backline with clever running angles. The Doronco side would have to improve markedly if they were to get back into this game!
The Gaijin starting the second half where the first had finished with a try within the first 5 minutes of the restart. From a scrum on the 22 metre line, Matt Downer put Toby Gallagher into a hole and he was away. After breaking into the Doronco half he drew the fullback and passed the ball off to Nawaqavanua. In his efforts to beat the recovering defense he ran a big zigzag across the field from the right of the posts to the left side of the field to score. Downer was unable to convert. The score was now looking too big for the Doronco side to catch up at 34v0.
The next try saw Matt Downer put Joffa Harris into a hole just outside the Gaijin 22 metre line with a neat little pass off his shoulder after drawing the inside centre to him. Harris charged upfield and handed it off to Ryan looming up in support. Ryan was just caught from behind as he received the ball but got a nice pass away to Andy Ballard who finished off the movement. With the successful conversion the score was now 41v0.
Matt Downer was to be the next to score with a scintillating show of speed. He burst through the defensive line 10 metres on his own side of halfway, stepped the fullback and scored under the posts. It was just reward for a 5-star performance. The conversion was missed leaving the score at 46v0.
At this stage, with the game seemingly in the bag, the Gaijin made some changes to their pack with Josh O'Brien replacing Rob Poulton, who had had some storming runs in the game, one a 35 metre charge from his own tryline. Mark Scott also replaced Joffa Harris in the second row and Yoz Togo replaced Toby Gallagher. Instead of bringing some new impetus to the team the Gaijin set pieces began to buckle and the scrum started to look shakey.
The Doronco side saw a chance and began hitting rucks with venom. They were rewarded with two late tries to make the final score 46v10. The Gaijin had a late rally but Doronco certainly owned the last 15 minutes.
The Tokyo Gaijin RFC had atoned for the poor performance last week by the 'Baby Gaijin'. Standouts in the forwards were Apisai Bati, with two tries and numerous turnovers, Rob Poulton with some great charges, and Stephen Dods showing the ball skills of a much younger man. The backs were well lead by captain Matt Downer and some great runs by Joe Nawaqavanua. The Man of the Match was awarded to Mitsuhiro Saito for a strong game which included his first try for the Gaijin and many excellent kickoff returns.
Englishman Alan Haines, after 20 years out of the game, had a 5 minute cameo at the end to ease into his second coming.
Thanks to Blake Walker for refereeing the match.
SCORE : TGRFC 46 (Apisai Bati 2, Mike Ryan 1, Rob Poulton 1, Mitsuhiro Saito 1, Joe Nawaqavanua 1, Andy Ballard 1, Matt Downer 1, Downer 3/7 goals) Doronco 10 (2 tries)
MAN OF THE MATCH : Mitsuhiro Sakai
1. Sakae Sakai (Japan)
2. Tomo Togo (VC) (Japan)
3. Rob Poulton (England)
4. Joffa Harris (Australia)
5. Mitsuhiro Sakai (Japan)
6. Gen Yamazaki (Japan)
7. Toby Gallagher (Ireland)
8. Stephen Dods (NZ)
9. Toru Kanamori (Japan)
10. Matt Downer (C) (NZ)
11. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
12. Joe Nawaquavanua(Fiji)
13. Andy Ballard (England)
14. Brian O'Brien (USA)
15. Mike Ryan (NZ)
RESERVES: Josh O'Brien (USA), Mark Scott (USA), Apisai Bati (Fiji), Yoz Togo (Japan), Daisuke Ikegami (Japan), Charles Joffre (France), Alan Haines (England)