A friendly match was arranged during the off-season between the Japanese National Rugby League team and the Tokyo Gaijin RFC. This match served the purposes of ensuring that at least a modicum of fitness was carried into the autumn, introducing some new players to the team and having some fun with rugby league.
The match was held at the excellent Tatsumi location, with the pitch as good as can be ever found in high-summer Tokyo. Recent rains and a generally mild summer meant that normal concerns about tackling on rock solid pitches under a blazing midday sun could be ignored.
The format was the 1st half played to league rules and then a code-switch to Rugby Union at half time. Although the Gaijin have previously been successful in league friendlies, training was seen as important part of the gameplay as League points. The match started in a manner that must be familiar to anyone with the scantiest interest in the team - unabating penalistation (Editor's Note: Mostly due to incorrect play the balls - League style). Whilst frustrating to play under such authoritarian conditions, conspiratorial tones from the Gaijin touchline admitted that, in certain unique situations, gameplay completely contravening the rules of the sport did indeed merit subtle arbitration. So the half continued, generally with experienced league players forming the pillars of attack and the best of the rest quickly adapting to the idea. Notable for his tireless play (and for his arbitrary return from an absence of arbitrary duration) was the match captain Richard O'Shea who led by example whenever on the pitch. An outstretched and completely airborne O'Shea was the first Gaijin to cross the line to score.
The real crowd pleasers were, quite predictably, the flamboyant Ozzies, with Tristan O'Connor and Joffa Harris connecting regularly and imaginatively. A textbook play, spontaneously enacted by the two involved Tristan taking the reset before releasing Joffa into a whiff of space on his right. As always, it took all the kings horses and men to bring Harris to a halt, by which time O'Connor was racing along a thin corridor on the touchline to score.
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