Date: 14th of November
Although the Gaijin were guilty of playing a less attractive brand of rugby than they would like to, it was the most effective for the situation, and delivered them the victory they needed. The bonus point 31-17 win they achieved at the hands of Tentoumushi at the picturesque rugby stadium at Inagi is enough to take them to equal top of the Shuto League table with All Jin Jan. That game in early January against All Jin Jam will decide the location of the trophy for the year and will be sure to be a bruising encounter.
Both teams were eager for victory and the Tentoumushi (Lady Beetles) were bound to get off to a better start with the Gaijin preperation being stalled a little by a jersey muck-up. Although the club has 3 sets of jerseys, we managed to bring a total of 0 sets to the game and had to call the Togo household to make a mercy-dash to save the team on this occasion.
The referee was bought into the game early, when from the kick-off, the Tentoumushi had hands all over the ball on the Gaijin 40m. After a clearing kick to get good distance and then another penalty for a similar infringement the Gaijin had a shot at goal. The team's new kicker, after leaving quite a few points on the field over the past few months, was Henry Bird and although the shot went just wide, he was striking the ball well.
Early whistle from the referee made it clear to both teams not to disrupt the flow of attacking ball and this was a very positive step from a young referee.
The first try would come courtesy of Joffa Harris. He started the go forward ball when he ran nicely on to a ball popped off the shoulder of Al Nimmo. His jostling forward play gave the team good clean ball and from the next phase the Tentoumushi boys were up very quick in defense. Hitoshi Chihara made a good choice to chip over the top and when the ball was recovered from the ground on the TGRFC side it was slung wide quickly. Joffa had a bit of space and glided past the would be tacklers with a strong run to score under the posts and put the team on the board early. With the kick converted the score was 7-0.
Tentoumushi proved from the restart that they were keen to play an expansive game. The ball was getting to the wings quickly and the Gaijin defense was looking shakey at best on the flanks. Some good work again by Al Nimmo in cover defense snuffed out a big yardage gain for the Tentoumushi when he forced the ball into touch with Tentoumushi numbers to spare on the right side. A quick lineout saw the ball then swung back left and it was only Joffa Harris coming out of the line quickly that forced the Tentoumushi centre to drop the ball with the line in sight and numbers to spare again. Toshi Miyano boomed a clearing kick up field to give the Gaijin boys some breathing space again.
However the Tentoumushi team, spurred on by a vocal group of (drunk?) supporters in the grandstand with a few ales under their belt, were pushing TGRFC hard. They had the best of territory and possession for long spells and with the metres being gained down the wings they were able to keep the Gaijin players tackling and on the backfoot. Fortunately the good cover defense was working and it was keeping the Tentoumushi team scoreless. TGRFC was beginning to get their hands on the ball at times again, but loose passes meant they were not able to capitalise.
When the Gaijin were finally able to get some territory they made the opposition pay. A very good interchange of play between forwards and backs up the field was opening up some room. The opportunist on this occasion was big Richard O'Shea. Popping up on the end of a string of passes, he fed a beautiful dummy any glitzy back would be proud of, and then stepped inside a would be defender to cap off a strong counter-surge from the Gaijin after a long period of sustained pressure by Tentoumushi down the other end of the field had been thwarted. The try was unconverted but the team had some breathing room with a 12- 0 lead.
TGRFC needed that try as Tentoumushi would come back not long after the restart. It was held up a little by runners in the front at kick-off and then a further mistake by Tentomushi forwards running into each other in the maul with the line in sight, but eventually the pressure told. A well placed kick over the top after some good phase work caught the Gaijin out wide with numbers again. Joffa Harris was working hard to thwart the try with good cover, but when the ball just beat his reach and then completely beat him with what can only be described as a rugby ball bounce, Tentoumushi were able to stroll over for a try and convert it to put them only 12-7 down.
Tentoumushi had worked hard for their try but they would only go to the break with the one. They had worked over the Gaijin backline on numerous occasions and this left cover defense that was looking a little dishevelled and scrambling to keep the scoreline intact. In a cynical effort to stop a try after yet another chip through and irregular bounce, Joffa Harris pulled down a would be runner without the ball, and the referee saw fit to give him a rest on the sideline for 10 mins , with the time to be spent in the bin on each side of halftime. They chose to take the penalty and with a successful shot the score was 12-10 to the Tokyo Gaijin.
The Gaijin could probably feel a little fortunate that they were in front at the break. They had snuffed out a number of opportunities, and some poor handling by Tentoumushi had also helped let them off the hook. A strong lineout and scrum for the opposition meant that TGRFC were not able to stamp dominance on the tough stuff and deficiencies in the backline defense compounded the problem by giving Tentoumushi big yards from clean phase ball. The Gaijin had a battle on their hands and would have to do so for about the first 5 minutes of the second half with only 14 men.
A couple of changes at halftime would hopefully make a difference to the game. With Simon 'Palmenator' Palm on at prop and Blake Walker on at centre the Gaijin would make a good start to the second half.
The forwards combined well to make good yards up the middle from the kick-off and then some good clean ball presented itself for the backs. With nobody at home at fullback, Blake Walker put a chip over the pack. A retiring defender couldnt collect the ball cleanly with pressure from the attackers coming through. From the scuffle on the ground Hitoshi Chihara cleared the ball for Blake Walker to pick up and make his way to the line to score a 'try'. The whistle was blown and the try celebrated, only for it to become clear that the markings on the field were a little unclear and it was in-fact not a try. Harris now had real competition for 'Goat of the Match'. From the Gaijin scrum however, a slick backline move left a yawning gap for Chihara to stroll through and under the posts for a converted try. 19-10.
Walker was taking good options with the boot, and soon the Gaijin scored again after a strong kick-chase and good phase work meant that their strong new addition Tsukasa Takasugi, at prop, would go over for his second try in as many games. The Gaijin were now up 26-10 and still only had 14 men on the field. This was sure to put a dent in the Tentoumushi confidence that had been peaking just before the half.
With the TGRFC back to a full complement and breathing space in the scoreline, the TGRFC looked to take some better options. Clearing the ball for territory would take priority with the 1st half defensive problems being all but ended. They would however rear their ugly head once again when, with a couple of players down for the Gaijin in defense, the T-men managed to run in a long range try down the left wing with their speedy winger able to take the ball close enough to the line that they had a relatively easy conversion. 26 -17.
Tentoumushi could have been in again but for a try-saving tackle by Walker on the sideline clattering a man half his size into touch a metre from the tryline. It saved a try and proved to be an example of the strong cover defense that was a testament to the Gaijin victory on the day.
Joffa Harris, who started the try-scoring, would also finish it. After a series of concerted attacks where the Gaijin went very close to scoring, Harris came off the back of a scrum about 10 metres out, pushed off the flanker and ran through the Tentoumushi standoff to score the final try of the game. This would shore up the scoreline at 31-17 and although unconverted it gave the Gaijin the victory they required.
Harris was then replaced by Bati Apasai at no.8 who made some powerful yards up field from the back of the scrum and kept the Gaijin on the front foot for the remainder of the game. Another player to feature strongly after coming on as a reserve was Alex Glover who showed he is very good in all facets of forward play, and being a young man, gets around the field well with useful energy and vigor and always makes an impact.
The win was not beautiful but important and the whole team was happy to come away with a victory. 'Man of the Match' went to new man Henry Bird, who was very industrious all match and made some big yards for the team wih the boot and on the ground. While not getting a lot of room to play with on attack , he always managed to get some good yards and had sound defence all day long when it was required to keep the team in the contest.
As always thanks goes to the helpers who come along to each game and the support crew for making this team the great team that we all enjoy playing for.
Score : TGRFC 31 (Joffa Harris 2, Richard O'Shea 1, Hitoshi Chihara 1, Tsukasa Takasugi 1 tries, Henry Bird 3/4 conversions, 0/1 penalties, Yamagen 0/1 conversions) Tento Mushi 17 (3 tries, 1/3 conversions)
Man of the Match: Henry Bird
Goat of the Match: Blake Walker
1. Warren Adamson (South Africa)
2. Tomo Togo (C) (Japan)
3. Tsukasa Takasugi (Japan)
4. Richard O'Shea (Wales)
5. Jesse Cutler (USA)
6. Dave Richards (Wales)
7. Dave Kelver (USA)
8. Joffa Harris (Australia)
9. Alaister Nimmo (England)
10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)
11. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
12. Hitoshi Chihara (vc) (Japan)
13. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
14. Jeff Cutler (USA)
15. Henry Bird (NZ)
16. Liam Ramshaw (England)
17. Simon Palm (Germany)
18. Natsu (Japan)
19. Alex Glover (England)
20. Apisai Bati (Fiji)
21. Yamagen (Japan)
22. Blake Walker (NZ)
23. Charles Joffre (France)
24. Giovanni Ingiglli (Italy)
25. Wataru Sato (Japan)