Dateline: Tuesday, 3rd MayThe first game of the shortened Tokyo Cup 2011 version kicked off at Misato Sports Field for the Gaijin on the 3rd of May, a Public Holiday Tuesday. The unusual choice of days had been forced on the organizers in the aftermath of the Great North-east Japan earthquake. The Gaijin team were struggling for numbers due to a string of injuries and the Golden Week holiday period taking its toll on playing numbers. To make matters worse they were up against the biggest forward pack in the competition and a monster front row and were already missing three of their regular props. The same could not be said for Supermen RFC, decked out in their splendid green team warm-up T-shirts. They looked great, if not a little odd, in 'Superman Green' the colour he is so well-recognised for. Nevertheless it is unnecessary to demean the fashion sense of the other team as the purpose of the day was rugby, and the game ended 43 - 7 with the TGRFC soundly beaten.
The start to the game did not auger well for the Gaijin when Toshi Miyano put the ball out on the full. Supermen didn't take advantage of this Gaijin mistake though when they were penalised from the resulting scrum, but then Miyano didn't find touch with his kick. Luckily the chase was good and the receiver was bundled into touch.That was three mistakes in the first minute of play!! Another mistake was soon to follow for the Gaijin when a more patient buildup would have been in order with Hitoshi Chihara throwing what can only be deemed as a 'stupid' pass to Wataru Sato in heavy traffic. The ball was lost and Supermen got to show how dominant their scrum was. With an easy scrum win and a good kick they were soon setting themselves up for a lineout 15 metres from the Gaijin line. At the 8 minute mark, the Supermen RFC were to get their first try. It came with their Number 8 picking up from the back of a dominant scrum and passing to the blind-side winger who raced away, rounding Jo Iwasaki at fullback easily, and dotting down midway between the posts and the sideline. Onlookers are still trying to work out what happened to the Gaijin blind-side flanker and winger as they were unsighted. The Supermen goal kicker failed to convert the try but they had got out to an early 5 v 0 lead.
Soon after a long kick downfield was knocked on by Iwasaki as he tried to take it on the run and Supermen took advantage and were soon shunting back a Gaijin scrum on their own 5 meter line. The Gaijin scrum disintegrated and the flankers broke off to scrap for the ball and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try. After the conversion the lead for Supermen had increased to 12 v 0.
The try avalanche continued not long after with a weak attempted tackle on halfway by a Gaijin back giving the Supermen right-winger an easy runaway try - his second for the half. Score: 19 v 0 to Supermen.
Toshi Miyano then put the next kickoff out on the full (for the second time in the half) and things were starting to fall apart for the TGRFC. The Gaijin were made to pay again when wave after wave of attack created an overlap in the tiring Gaijin side and the Supermen outside centre scored from what looked like a marginally forward pass. The score had now ballooned out to 24 v 0.
The Gaijin were to suffer more anguish on the 30 minute mark when South African prop Warren Adamson went down with a broken ankle. Already short of props, Ken Asakura stepped up from the second row to fill the void against much bigger men.
The left winger was to score next for the Supermen when superior numbers out wide created a large hole for him to run through and score. With the conversion unsuccessful the Supermen would go into halftime with a very big lead of 29 v 0.
The Gaijin looked a sorry bunch at halftime but captain Alistair Nimmo did his best to rally the troops. The forwards needed to make more dominant tackles and improve their scrummaging. The backs were also struggling with personnel changes meaning things were not flowing and inexperience was showing. Even the trustworthy hands of Jo Iwasaki at fullback were letting the team down. Ken Asakura, who had filled in valiantly at prop against much bigger ogres, succumbed to a slipped disc and could barely walk to the sidelines. It was time for Natsu Kunihiko, new to the propping game, to step up and show what he had learnt in his last few outings at prop. A good thing to be taken out of the game heading into the spell was the increased aggression levels of a number of players, Liam Ramshaw in particular took delight in some close-quarter combat.
Whatever captain Nimmo had said at halftime must have worked as the Gaijin started the second half on fire. They were pressing on their opponents line for the first 10 minutes of the half and had 2 scrums in a row on the Supermen 5 metre line. Good defense though was holding them out until standoff Toshi Miyano finally broke through to score next to the posts after a clever 'show and go'. It was just reward for the constant pressure. Miyano converted to make the score 29 v 7 to Supermen.
The Gaijin continued to play in the Supermen half but had trouble converting the pressure into points. Frustration was starting to show in their play, epitomized by Ikuo Fukuda returning a kick with a chip kick right into the middle of his forwards who were all in a bunch in front of him and therefore immediately offside. Not long after Fukuda let a long kick bounce in front of him instead of catching it, to then see it go over the touchline. He was later penalised by his team-mates with the Goat of the Game Award.
Supermen made the Gaijin pay for these silly schoolboy mistakes with a pushover try from a scrum soon after. They had repelled the Gaijin attack for a good 20 minutes only leaking one try and played their way back into the Gaijin half. The power of their scrum was too much for the Gaijin pack to withstand. Score: 34 v 7 to the Supermen RFC.
The Supermen were to finish with two more tries, one coming from a break in their own 22 metre line and another coming as a result of flimsy tackling from the Gaijin backs. Despite a promising start to the half from the Gaijin and the wind at their backs they had slumped as the half wound its way to an end and let in 3 late, easy tries to see the score balloon out to 46 v 7.
The Supermen side were just too classy on the day. Their scrum was a real advantage for them and the constant charges up the middle of the ruck from their eager forwards forced the Gaijin to bunch up and this created a lot of gaps out wide. Their backs, especially their wingers, showed a lot of pace and carried the ball strongly.
The Gaijin are often labelled as 'big' by opposition teams and referees alike but there was no doubt on this day who the 'big' team were, with Supermen having one of the biggest packs in amateur rugby in Tokyo. Their props were like 300 year old cedars (or should that be sumo wrestlers) with legs like tree trunks. They dwarfed the Gaijin front row.
The Gaijin had dominated the 3rd quarter of the game but only had 7 points to show for it. The terrible start didn't help but the most disappointing thing was the three 'soft' tries at the end that really blew the score out.
For the Gaijin plaudits must go to Takeshi Koba who played the whole game at prop, which is not his preferred position (much preferring lock or No.8), and Natsuhiko Kunitomo who held his side of the scrum up admirably for the second half. The Man of the Match award went to captain and halfback Alistair Nimmo who marshalled his troops well all day and led from the front, often taking on some of the big Supermen forwards in solid front on tackles - some of the bigger Gaijin forwards could do no worse than take a leaf out of his book. Nothing less is expected from our leader who lives for the big games and plays out of his skin. It also turned out to be his last game for several months with him taking off for a couple of months to distant lands in search of treasure.
Thank you as always to helpers, family, supporters and the team who make this great tournament possible. A big thankyou to the wonderfully helpful Hitomi Kurosawa (O'Shea) who made sure Warren Adamson got to hospital and was properly cared for. She has had a fair amount of experience in dealing with serious knee issues to props in the last 12 months. And also to Satoko who had to put up with that angry poisoned weasel (Editor's Note: That would be a Tokyo Cup Official) that has a winge at our team every year. Seriously mate, go on a trip to New Zealand for the World Cup and while you are there visit some of the clubs that keep our region great at rugby. God knows you might actually enjoy yourself and come back with a greater appreciation for the true spirit of the game. Hope you enjoyed that Joffa.
SCORE: Supermen RFC 43 (7 ties; 4/7 conversions) TGRFC 7 (Toshi Miyano 1 try + 1/1 conversions)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Alaister Nimmo
Goat of the Game: Ikuo Fukuda
TOKYO GAIJIN RFC TEAM:
1. Warren Adamson (South Africa)
2. Liam Ramshaw (Japan)
3. Takeshi Koba (Japan)
4. Shintaro Yamamoto (Japan)
5. Ken Asakura (Japan)
6. Shinya (Japan)
7. Alex Glover (England)
8. Apisai Bati (Fiji)
9. Alaister Nimmo (England)
10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)
11. Wataru Sato (Japan)
12. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
13. Brian O'Brien (USA)
14. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
15. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
16. Aaron Nutsford (NZ)
17. Jesse Takahashi (USA)
18. Natsuhiko Kunitomo (Japan)
19. Dave Kelver (USA)
20. Ryogo Takemura (Japan)
21. Charles Joffre (France)
22. Yamagen (Japan)