Dateline : June 12th, 2011
The Tokyo Gaijin played Shinjuku Jacks at Misato in a game they had to win if they were to stay in 1st Division in the Tokyo Cup in 2012. With a large portion of the 1st team away at Andy Ballard's wedding in Prague a few old boys were dragged out of bed in ex-Gaijin captains Murray Clarke and Brendon Doherty. With both regular Captain Alaister Nimmo and Vice-captain Richard O'Shea in Prague the Captaincy duties were handed to the experienced Clarke.
After the obligatory and ever-annoying rigmarole of a dress check 80 minutes before kickoff and a solid warmup, play began at 2:30pm. Shinjuku Jacks kicked off straight to Murray Clarke who instantly offloaded to Joffa Harris who crashed up through the first line of defense up to halfway. After a series of rucks and quick recycling David Chan made an excellent break through the midfield and offloaded a nice draw-and-pass ball to Brendon Doherty to score. He missed the conversion but the Gaijin were out to a 5 v 0 lead within the first 5 minutes of the game.
The second kickoff mirrored the first with Clarke taking the ball and Joffa crashing it straight up through the centre and making good ground. Several quick recycles of the ball with most of the forwards getting involved and the defense backtracking led to the Jacks trying to slow down play and earning the ire of the referee with hands in the ruck. The Gaijin kicked to touch and then after a series of rucks were threatening the line and earned another penalty. They attacked the line from the ensuing lineout but were ultimately held up. Soon after though, with a scrum about 5 metres out and almost directly in front of the posts, the Gaijin pushed the Jacks off their own ball and Joffa emerged from the back of the scrum with the ball and managed to crash over the line with a couple of defenders hanging off him. Brendon Doherty converted and the Gaijin had shot out to an early 12 v 0 lead.
The kickoff was a repeat of the first again with Clarke taking it and passing onto Joffa but this time he went down a narrowish blind and was taken into touch. The Shinjuku Jacks had their first chance to attack from a set-piece in opposition territory but excellent in-your-face defense forced a dropped ball and turnover. The Gaijin worked their way up into the Jack's side of the field and were rewarded for tenacious defense with the Jacks being penalised for not releasing the ball. Doherty was given the go-ahead to shoot for goal from about 30 meters out in front and made no mistake to put the Gaijin well in front at 15 v 0.
From the kickoff the Gaijin were again pushing into Shinjuku Jack territory and found themselves ready for a lineout 5 metres from the Jack's line. The ball was turned over, however, and some butter-fingers from Daisuke Ikegami saw the Jacks fight their way out of their half. Superior breakdown work from the Gaijin, especially Shinichiro Nakayama, was constantly stifling the Jack's attack and forcing them to kick out of their own half. On one of these clearing kicks, from on their own 22 metre line, Alex Glover was adjudged to have tackled the Shinjuku Jack standoff too late and high and was subsequently yellow-carded.
The rest of the half saw lots of to-ing and thro-ing as each team battled for territory. The Jacks lifted after the sinbinning of Glover, sensing a chance to capitalise on an undermanned Gaijin, and make up for their bad start. The Gaijin lost their mettle a bit with fitness issues beginning to show. The referee was quite generous towards the Gaijin early on but then they suffered a string of penalties and ended up defending their line for a brief period. Brendan Doherty and Toshi Miyano were solid as the half wore on and booted the Gaijin out of trouble a few times. The Shinjuku Jacks were beginning to get a little 'aggro' at not being able to capitalise on the Gaijin being a man short and a few digs were going into the rucks. The best play in the rest of the half was from Daisuke Ikegami, making up for earlier 'butter fingers', when he smashed the Jacks winger into touch.
The teams went into halftime with the score at 15 v 0 to the Gaijin with all these points coming in the first quarter. The forwards were strong early on but fitness became the burning issue. The Gaijin had gone into their shell a bit after Glover was sinbinned. The Gaijin scrum was dominant, with a certain push over try going begging when the backs demanded the ball, but the Jacks had defended the scrum on their line quite well repelling a few charges from the back of the scrum by Joffa Harris. Murray Clarke & Joffa Harris were combining well from kickoffs and in the loose and the fromt row was having a powerful game. Brendan Doherty was controlling things well and Toshi Miyano was also dangerous.
The Jacks came out fired up for the second half in an effort to save their season and gain promotion to 1st Division. In the first few minutes of the second half a Shinjuku Jack's kick fell into open space as the Gaijin fullback, Brian O'Brien, was a little too deep. O'Brien just managed to stretch out and hack the ball, soccer-style (though Zidane would cringe in embarrassment), as it hit the ground. A lucky bounce saw a Shinjuku Jack's back latch on to score near the posts. The conversion was successful and it was 'game on' at 15 v 7 to the Gaijin.
The Jacks then continued with this tactic, sensing a weakness in the Gaijin back three, and had the Gaijin quite worried for a 10 minute spell as Wataru Murata and O'Brien tried to cope with kicks into the corner and a strong chase. The Gaijin decided to make some changes with Murata going into halfback, O'Brien to the wing and the experienced Tristan O'Conner switching to fullback. This seemed to do the trick though O'Connor did run the ball out from his own tryline once, instead of kicking for touch, and passed the ball to Charles Joffre, who had just replaced Daisuke Ikegami, and was instantly smashed from behind.
The Gaijin did finally manage to break out of their period of nervy passing and panic, probably more due to luck than pure skill. Alex Glover, running the ball out of his 22 kicked the ball upfield. It wasn't the best kick and he later admitted that it was meant to be a grubber kick. The kick ended up being more of a loopy chip and Joffa Harris managed to claim it on the full before the oncoming winger and slip it away in the tackle. It was passed out to Shinichiro Nakayama who made a good break, then onto David Chan and finally to Brendon Doherty for his second try of the afternoon. Doherty failed with the conversion but the Gaijin now had a 13 point buffer at 20 v 7.
Soon after the Jacks had a chance to close the gap with a penalty attempt but their shot was waved away and the Gaijin got out of their half with a 22 metre dropout. For the next spell there was a bit of ping pong as more kicking came into the game.
The Gaijin were next to score when their scrum absolutely demolished the Jack scrum from 5 metres out. The ball spewed out the side and Alex Glover, despite slipping, managed to clambor his way over the tryline next to the posts. Doherty converted to put the Gaijin out to a seemingly untouchable lead at 27 v 7.
It was time for replacements in the forward pack as the team needed fresh lags and Joffa was starting to get a bit feisty (starting to??). Dave Kelver and Akio Yoneda came on for Joffa & Glover.
This was just the medicine the Gaijin needed as the Shinjuku Jacks struggled to get out of their half for the rest of the game. Dave Kelver was a man on a mission with some excellent tackles and strong work over the rucks. Akio Yoneda was a willing wingman.
With some excellent defense and strong attacking from the revitalized forwards, the Gaijin wore down the Jacks defense to get the final try of the game with Brendon Doherty finishing off a string of passes after concerted rucking. Shinichiro Nakayama and Clarke were heavily involved in the initial tackle and ball steal and subsequent rucking. It was Doherty's third try for the match, a brilliant effort for a guy who doesn't play so much these days (Editor's note: It's harder to get him out on the field than it is to learn Kanji). Doherty failed with the wide-ish conversion to make the final score 32 v 7.
The win was not as convincing as the scoreline might show, but it was a win all the same. There was some silly passing but also some nice individual skills on display. The Gaijin forwards annihilated the Shinjuku Jacks in the scrums and won most of their lineouts (a few short throws were picked off) but they did not steal any of opposition lineouts until late in the game when Clarke got one.
The key to the Gaijin success was (1) their powerful scrum, (2) the interplay between forwards in running the ball up and, (3) the quick ruck ball that followed for the backs to run on to. Lineouts were okay but not stellar with a few balls getting stolen.
The front row were exceptional with Takayuki Kitajima and Tsukasa Takasugi later being credited with the Man of the Match award. They were well backed up by the rest of the tight five with Jesse Cutler and Murray Clarke solid in scrums and involved a lot in the tight work (rucks). The loose forwards were great when energy was high providing that quick ball. The backs were solid and Tristan O'Connor, Toshi Miyano and Brendan Doherty worked well, with some good crash ball from David Chan at 13. Doherty was often mentioned in Man of the Match considerations but it was hard to go past the two bookends up front who set the platform for the win.
Thanks to all the helpers who came out and filled all the roles that the Tokyo Rugby Union makes necessary, and a big thanks to all our supporters on the day. Without you we would not be able to play. You made it easier for the Gaijin to stay in 1st Division for two consecutive years for the first time in the Club's history. By no means an easy task when you consider the transient nature of gaijin in Japan and the constant turnover of players.
SCORE: TGRFC 32 (Brendon Doherty 3, Joffa Harris 1, Alex Glover 1 tries, Doherty 2/5 conversions, 1/1 penalties) Shinjuku Jacks 7 (1 try + 1/1 conversions, 0/1 penalties)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Tsukasa Takasugi & Takayuki Kitajima
Goat of the Game: Brian O'Brien
1. Takayuki Kitajima (Japan)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. Tsukasa Takasugi (Japan)
4. Jesse Cutler (USA)
5. Murray Clarke (C) (NZ)
6. Alex Glover (England)
7. Shinichiro Nakayama (Japan)
8. Joffa Harris (Australia)
9. Tristan O'Connor (Australia)
10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)
11. Wataru Murata (Japan)
12. Brendon Doherty (Australia)
13. David Chan (Australia)
14. Daisuke Ikegami (Japan)
15. Brian O'Brien (USA)
16. Chris Lucas (Australia)
17. Natsu Kunitomo (Japan)
18. Akio Yoneda (Japan)
19. Dave Kelver (USA)
20. Daniel Worden (NZ)
21. Yamagen (Japan)
22. Charles Joffre (France)