Saturday 10th July, 2010

The trip began with a fizzle as the Tokyo Gaijin sheep decided to go with mob mentality and all followed someone with no idea of where they were going in completely the wrong direction.  After returning to the starting spot, finding the tour leader Al Nimmo and heading in the complete opposite direction we were greeted by a lovely yellow bus with small chandeliers for effect.  All took their seats for the long journey ahead into the Alps and rugby paradise that is Sugadaira.

The trip up was relatively uneventful and all arrived in good time at base-camp Hotel Davos, to meet those that had travelled by car.  A small detour en-route was taken to sample the delicious cuisine that Sugadaira’s dining establishments have on offer.

 

After a couple of hours relaxing we were informed that the Saturday comp. would be a tens competition and that the rules would be a little stricter than those previously thought.  The constantly revolving bench would give way to a maximum of 3 substitutions to be made at half time.  The Gaijin would have to be a lot more tactical about their on-field placements than previously thought.

 

The first team we were drawn against was All Jin Jan, the team that we had beaten the previous week in the Shuto League final.  It was decided that the majority of the team would be the Northern Hemishpere guys who had not played them in the previous week.  This proved to be a very good choice as the TGRFC started off with a hiss and a roar and in one beautiful sweeping movement from the kick off went over to score.  The heavy cost of this movement was Toshi Miyano left struggling about 5m out from the JJ’s line with a dislocated shoulder after making the final pass in the tackle.  Another fine try was scored by Rich O’Shea kicking ahead from nothing and storming down the line to score.  Simon Palm also picked up another fine try after a great team effort capped off by his powerful running.  The Gaijin ended up winning about 24 – 7 to take first blood in the mini-tournament.

 

The team had to back up quickly and with a big change of members and a less experienced outlook to the team they were well beaten 29 – 0 by the team they went up against.  It was a matter of not really getting a chance to play with the ball, and the heavy defeat would count against the team in the long run.

 

This meant that the last game would be the playoff for 5th and 6th spot against long-time foe Doronco.  Surprisingly, TGRFC team member Dan Arakawa shifted allegiances for the tourney to bolster up a friends team.  Again the Gaijin played well and scored some memorable tries of which I cannot remember.

 

The eventual winners of the tournament were the All Jin Jan team that the team had comprehensively beaten in the first game, but in a tournament of this format, the point differential is always important so the 2nd performance was the main disappointment of the day.

 

All was well for a good night though, and the boys headed back to the Davos for a bath and a couple of ales before the always popular “Lettuce Extravaganza”.  The allure of the Sugadaira lettuce has to spread many corners of the globe, and with new touring members from Germany, Mongolia and Canada the legend is sure to stretch a little further.  The party was an unqualified success with 2 of the 4 cases of Happoshu given as prizes won by the TGRFC touring party.

 

Everybody was well lubricated for dinner back at the Davos, and after the general prize-giving and punishments all retired to the party room for more rugby.  Courtesy of Andy, Al and Campbell with their combined expertise in the area of technology, they were able to deliver the All Blacks v South Africa game for the opening of the Tri-nations tournament.  It would be fair to say that everyone in the room was much happier when the All Blacks came out victorious and won a victory for exciting rugby.  Warren Adamson was one interested spectator that was particularly excited about the result.

 

Sunday 11th July, 2010

Acting Tour Manager Alaister Nimmo had everyone up at 7am for brekkie, so that we could be down at the main field for the opening ceremony, march past and lots of speeches that seemed to drone on.....something about the history of the event and playing 'Anzen Rugby' (safe rugby). There were many bleary eyes after some had a heavy night of drinking, after a heavy afternoon of drinking, with the last soul going off to bed at 3:30am.

The Gaijin's game was to kick off at 11:00am on a beautiful, lush green rugby field against Nagano Ruggers RFC, supposedly the top club side in Nagano. There were a lot of sore heads in the Gaijin side as the team warmed up with Mongolian Ganba leaving the contents of his stomach on the side of the warmup area numerous times and Blake Walker looking decidedly green about the gills. This didn't auger well for the Gaijin as the other team looked spritely in comparison. Before the game was to get underway there was to be a very serious Tokyo Cup style dress check. This was disappointing as the Sugadaira Tournament has always been about having fun and enjoying yourself.  It was a sign of things to come with regards to officialdom.

Not long after the referee got the game under way, both teams realised that there was no doubt as to who was in charge with the man with the whistle admonishing both sides for any talk-back or suggestive comments. He seemed very whistle happy....an Army General comes to mind. The Gaijin weathered the early attacks from the Nagano team and seemed to be slowly turning the tables, as the Nagano team looked to be tiring. This turned out to be a false impression as they turned up the heat as the game went on.

The Gaijin probably had a slight territorial advantage in the first half but never really looked like scoring. The only decent break was by Hitoshi Chihara who was having a blinder. He made a break down the right side from a scrum and passed back inside to Joffa Harris, who was ankle tapped as he looked for a support player, and knocked the ball on. The Nagano Ruggers RFC scored just before the break, with a nicely worked move from a lineout. Their inside center made a nice angled run back towards the forwards after receiving a pop pass from the standoff. The Gaijin flankers had already passed him in their eagerness to get across the field and the rest of the forwards were too slow to cover the hole up the middle. So the Nagano Ruggers went into the halftime break with a 7 v 0 lead.

Mauro Sauco and Aaron Nutsford in the forwards were willing ball carriers in the first half and the halves combination of Hitoshi Chihara and Alaister Nimmo tried hard to marshall their troops. At halftime some major changes were made to get the reserves on as the Tournament had ridiculous rules that any player changes could only be made at halftime.

The second half was very forgettable with the Gaijin forgetting how to tackle. At one stage it seemed like the team was standing behing their posts 3 times in five minutes. Holes were being found on the left of the Gaijin backlne. When  that hole was plugged, the Nagano team seemed to find holes at will up the middle of the ruck. After a handful of tries to their opposition the Gaijin finally got on the scoreboard. Joffa Harris, covering the winger after he chased a kickoff, took a kick on the full and beat the chasing winger then cut back infield to beat two more would be defenders. As he was closed down by the cover defense, Hitoshi Chihara appeared on his right screaming for the ball. Harris managed to offload as he was tackled and Chihara raced the last few meters to score. It was just reward for Chihara who had toiled hard all day with not too much help around him.

After a few more tries to the Nagano Ruggers the Gaijin were to get the last points of the game. Simon Palm, who had laboured hard all game, made a great break up the middle of the ruck and raced 40 meters upfield. He was collared just short of the tryline by two defenders but managed to offload to Mauro Sauco, showing great support play for a big fella. As he was tackled he passed it off to Al Nimmo who was also stopped in his tracks. Nimmo managed to pass it back to Sauco who ran the last few meters to score under the post. Good support play all round, especially by the big piece of Argentinian beef!

The result was given to the Gaijin on the basis of last try wins!

No. Just kidding. The Nagano Ruggers RFC were simply too strong and focused and ran away with the game. Final result: A lot to a little. I would like to say that rugby was the winner but that simply wouldn't be true. Beer was the winner, especially for the Nagano Ruggers with the Gaijin simply way out of the groove. They hadn't really turned up to play. Great stories and beer the night before though.

The bus trip home, with a few boxes of locally grown fresh lettuce (prize winnings from the evening before), was more of the same. Beers & Andy Ballard led Karaoke. And a stop at an onsen for the players to bathe their bruised egos. Great fun! A big thanks to Alaister Nimmo for all his work in arranging the tour again.

TEAM:

1. Simon Palm (Germany)

2. Tomo Togo (c) (Japan)

3. Warren Adamson (South Africa)

4. Richard O'Shea (Wales)

5. Mauro Sauco (Argentina)

6. Aaron Nutsford (NZ)

7. Dave Kelver (USA)

8. Joffa Harris (Australia)

9. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)

10. Alaister Nimmo (England)

11. Charles Joffre (France)

12. Blake Walker (NZ)

13. Andy Ballard (England)

14. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)

15. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)

Reserves: Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland), Erin Hughes (USA), Takeshi Ochiai (Japan), Yoshihiro Sato (Japan), Shunsuke (Japan), Ganba (Mongolia)