Date: 20th February
Upon arriving at the normally well kept Shin-Shibamata Rugby ground, the TGRFC realised that the previous tactics of utilising a big forwards would again be on the cards. The condidtions were anything but suitable for running rugby with generous amounts of surface water meaning the ground had to be turned around to keep the pitch clear of the large muddles. As this was the case there were no posts on the field and tries would be the decider of the game.
Earlier concerns over numbers meant that a late push was required by several players just to field a team and therefore it was pleasing when on the day, most members came through and a strong squad gathered for the match.
A young and inexperienced referee would be taking charge and that is exactly what he did from the kick-off by delivering some bewildering calls that left those experienced members on the field a little shocked as to what game he was watching.
Jo Iwasaki started out the match on fire with a huge hit in the midfield that was big enough to merit tackle of the year then and there, but all it did was left Jo a little confused as to why people were patting him on the back. As yet he still has no recollection of the event.
Big ups must also go to the front row of Chris Lucas, Liam Ramshaw and Warren Adamson who were pushing their opposition all over the park. The scrum was working well but early on the referee awarded Setagaya a scrum penalty. It seemed to be his way of making amends for the Gaijin scrum being far superior on the day.
Handling conditions were not the best but both teams were endeavouring to play attractive rugby. While Setagaya was making a bit more headway in the centrefield they were not breaking free of the line and were instead slipping through tacklers before the cover was taking them down. The Gaijin on the other hand were making big yards through Shinichiro the new lock and Big Joe Nawaqavanua. An industrious Shinichiro Nakayama and Ken Asakura were working hard at the breakdown and Joffa Harris was making good yards too.
All this was not turning into early points though. The game was ebbing and flowing and the scoreline was only broken with a piece of brilliance from Big Joe. He pushed off a number of tacklers and dotted down for the first of 5 points.
Joe would also be the scorer of the next try after some concerted pressure. Joffa Harris charged a clearing kick down and managed to regather the bobbling ball but was claimed at the same time. Shintaro ripped the ball off him and passed onto Joe who smashed through some defenders to crash over the line under where the black dot would have been had there been goal posts. Score: 10 v 0 to the Gaijin.
Blake Walker was combing well with Daisuke Ikegami and Brian O'Brien at the back to mop up the loose ball. The solid defense meant that the kick option was being used more by Setagaya as the game progressed, but the usual lack of wing support play was not an issue on the day with the three-quarters communication well.
The first Setagaya try before halftime would come up with only minutes left on the clock. The ball was scrambled wide and although the TGRFC did their best to mop up the mess, the 5 pointer really bought Setagaya back into the match at 10 - 5 down with half-time beckoning.
In the final minutes of the half however the Setagaya team were under pressure on their own line. Toshi Miyano had kicked to th corners well all game and was now keeping the Setagaya team guessing with some well-timed runs. Combined with a strong scrum the opposition were scrambling to clear the ball from their own line. The kick did not go out and Walker collected the ball at about the 35 yard line and spun clear of the defender and fed the ball wide. The quick hands in the team defied some scrambling defenders and with a jinking run by Daisuke Ikegami he crashed over in the corner with time up for the half to put the lead back out to 2 tries.
Halftime called for a calming of some nerves and a more intelligent approach to the game and to try and eliminate some of the many penalties that were being called.
The second half would see the game open up more and it was the Gaijin who benefitted. The reserves that entered the fray all were positive influences on the game and the ball handling in the wet was also of a high quality.
In the second half Big Joe would cross the line for another 3 tries and they would be from a variety of pure strength, speed and some offensive defense. He was very pleased with his effort and so were the team as it kept them well in front on the scoreboard. His final try of the day came from brut strength just before the final whistle and it was an appropriate way for him to finish the game.
The half was not without incident though. Although Joe was in his ubiquitous best on the day, the ref did not like his 'aggressiveness' at the tackle. He was yello-carded for a fairly innocuous high tackle and spent his time on the sideline seething over a pretty unfair decision.
In the half there would also be a try scored out wide by team Captain Al Nimmo. He was playing on the wing to allow some others game time and he slotted in well with some elusive runs. His try came courtesy of some very quick hands between a number of players with Liam Ramshaw flirting with the defense before delivering the ball to Nimmo for the final surge. He had some work to do but his jinking run was enough to see him cross for his first of the season.
Setagaya also managed to score in the second half that would go down in the book of tricks for future reference. With a penalty near the sideline the looked to clear the ball for the lineout. Instead they put in a cheeky flat kick to the man on the line, and with the TGRFC defense readying to form the lineout they were caught unaware. Despite protestations to the Touch Judge, who in this match was official and therefore impartial, that the chaser was offside, the try was awarded. The Gaijin gathered and argued with each other a little over a poor call, but to be fair all on the field, bar the kicker and try scorer, seemed oblivious to the plan and therefore it was a victory for intelligent Rugby.
All in all the TGRFC were happy with the efforts of the day. It had been a victory for positive rugby and despite difficult conditions the team did well to both a) get a playing squad assembled, and b) take the game-out with a convincing though arguably ill-disciplined victory.
Thank you to all the helpers, members and supporters who turned out for the game. Whether you help look after kids, support the team, play or just watch you are an important part of the club and your presence in never undervalued and always appreciated. Thank you.
Score: TGRFC 35 ( Joe Nawaquavanua 5, Daisuke Ikegami 1, Alaister Nimmo 1 tries) Setagaya Club 10 (2 tries) NOTE: No goals were taken.
Man of the Match: Warren Adamson
Goat of the Match: Joe NawaquavanuaTEAM:
1. Warren Adamson (South Africa)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. Chris Lucas (Australia)
4. Shintaro Yamamoto (Japan)
5. Ken Asakura (Japan)
6. Joe Nawaquavanua (Fiji)
7. Shichiro Nakayama(Japan)
8. Joffa Harris (VC) (Australia)
9. Alaister Nimmo (C) (England)
10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)
11. Brian O'Brien (USA)
12. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
13. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
14. Daisuke Ikegami (Japan)
15. Blake Walker (New Zealand)
Reserves: Takeshi Koba (Japan); Shin (Japan); Takashi (Japan); Tomohito Arakawa (Japan); Tristan O'Connor (Australia); Charles Joffre (France); Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)