Date: Sunday 23rd of January 2011, Hino Motors Ground
The games against All France had been relatively tight affairs in 2010 and with the game scheduled so early in 2011, the Gaijin were looking to continue a very positive start to the year by having a solid performance and victory. Unfortunately neither of these hopes figured in the eventual outcome with a very sub standard performance and a draw being all that was taken away from the game.
The Gaijin had rung the changes for this game with only 1 member in the pack the same as had started a week earlier in the excellent performance against All Jin Jan. The backs were similar with only 2 starting members the same and both of those players were to be in different positions. The team did not want excuses however as nothing short of victory was what we were aiming towards.
The game was permeated by weak ball possession and some poor decision making. Without going into too much detail, there were alot of easy turnovers at the ruck and maul, and passes that should have been thrown, were not, and ones that should not have been thrown, were. All in all it meant that the continuity of possession that often tires a team and puts pressure on, was non-existent and let the pressure off the opposition at crucial times.
It was this style of play that allowed All France to get the first points on the board and the 5 nil scoreline, was a result of their offensive defense and making the most of opportunities. Good play on the flanks was giving them go forward ball, with the Gaijin outside backs not tackling well. The Gaijin also suffered from stupid passes being thrown when the option to consolidate the pressure and rebuild a structure would have been the wiser option.
The only positive to be taken from the first half was the superior scrum and some good phase play at stages. That is what saw Top Try scorer of 2010, Joffa Harris, get over for his first of 2011. From a lineout, the Gaijin forwards mauled the ball forward and Harris broke off the back and powered through two defenders to score. The score was 5 - 5 and after some indifferent play the Gaijin looked like they might get back into it.
Henry Bird was peeling off big yards with some booming kicks, and some further slick tactical kicks by Blake Walker was keeping the All France team on the backfoot for a time. This was cemented by some good pick and go work by the Gaijin forwards, but nothing came of it. The closest the Gaijin got was after a good platform the ball was spun wide quickly and with numbers to burn on the outside, Ikuo Fukuda took the ball back into traffic, when the wiser option would have been to draw the last defender and give it to his unmarked winger. The ball was turned-over and the All France scrambled the ball out.
The second half saw a few personnel changes with Toshi Miyano coming into 10 and pushing Walker out to 12. Henry Bird moved to Fullback so he could chime into the line more. This was also when a new presence, Ken Asakura, made himself known to the team and explained that he was looking for a game. We would oblige.
Some good interplay between Miyano, Walker and Bird had the attack going smoother in the backs. And the continuing presence of the engine room kept giving the Gaijin promising phases. Unfortunately it was All France who got on the board first. After a spell of good possession on attack, it looked as it they were going to be denied clear cut try opportunities. The drop goal option was taken, and missed, but some terribly lazy clean up work (or was it simply inexperience) by the Gaijin allowed All France to fall on the ball for what was a very soft 5 points. 10 - 5 and the Gaijin were fighting from behind again.
Our referee for the day was doing well to keep a cap on some boiling tensions, and although the game was a little fractious at times it was generally played in a tough, but high-spirited manner. The game was losing its shape and this was probably playing into the hands of the Gaijin more. However the flare and slick running of the All France team meant that at any opportunity they were making big yards up field.
Alex Glover would be the man to go over for the final try of the game. He was doing well to still be on the field as he was battling some niggly injuries and had actually been replaced earlier. Nevertheless he played on and got the 5 points required to tie the match. Positive running by David Chan and some aggressive pick and go's by captain for the day, Aaron Nutsford, propelled the Gaijin deep into the French 22m. An All France scrum only metres from their own line was turned over and after a strong Joffa Harris run from a penalty tap scuttled the defenders, the Gaijin put together some pwerful rucking surges and Glover capitalised by crashing over. The hastily taken Drop-goal was missed and the score remained level at 10 v 10.
The game ended with this scoreline, and both teams rued untaken opportunities. However it was decided that the draw would remain and there would be no serious consideration of the number of stupid tie breakers suggested by a number of people at the end of the match.
Thanks as always to our helpers, medics, supporters and members that made the early trip out to Hino on this day. Your support is always appreciated.
Tokyo Gaijin - 10 : (Joffa Harris 1, Alex Glover 1tries, Yamagen 0/2 conversions)
All France - 10 : (2 Tries; 0/2 conversions)
1. Chris Lucas (Aust)
2. Liam Ramshaw (Eng)
3. Simon Palm (Ger)
4. Alex Glover (Eng)
5. Natsu Kuritomo (Japan)
6. Aaron Nutsford (C) (NZ)
7. Al Nimmo (Eng)
8. Joffa Harris (Aust)
9. Tristan O'Connor (Aust)
10. Blake Walker (NZ)
11. Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)
12. Henry Bird (NZ)
13. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
14. Giuseppe Ingrilli (Italy)
15. Brian O'Brien (USA)
Reserves: Angga Wirastomo (Indonesia), Ken Asakura (Japan) Tomo Togo (Japan), Yoz Togo (Japan), Toshi Miyano (Japan), Jeff Holland (USA), David Chan (Aust), Yamagen (Japan), Richard Bales (Canada).