Dateline: 11th September, 2011
A hatrick from debutant Sam Deroeck and a dominant scrum helped the Tokyo Gaijin RFC start their 2011 Shuto League campaign with a comprehensive 62 v 12 win over Fuji RFC. This augers well in a season with two strong newcomers in the First Division of the Shuto League and the Gaijin hoping for a third consecutive Shuto League title.
The game was played at the beautiful Tatsumi complex near central Tokyo. The Gaijin had a large squad in attendance but the rather relaxed rules of the Shuto League (as opposed to the anal rules of the Tokyo Cup) allow teams to play more than 22 players so the team were hoping to get everyone on the field while trying to keep the Fuji club to zero and earn an extra bonus point.
Things started well for the Gaijin with their scrum absolutely destroying the Fuji scrum and earning a turnover. A good run from the back of the scrum by Gaijin No.8 Takashi Tanikawa got the Gaijin on the front foot. A few rucks later and the Gaijin earned a penalty, kicked for touch, and found themselves in a lineout 5 metres out from the Fuji goal line. Two rucks later Nik Pavesic charged over to get the Gaijin out to an early 5 v 0 lead. The conversion was unsuccessful from Toshi Miyano.
Not long after, the Gaijin found themselves setting down another scrum in front of their posts after Joe Nawaqavanua dropped a ball he should have taken. The Gaijin got out of trouble with another huge scrum and came away with the ball. They moved further upfield with a penalty for a ruck infringement soon after but the ensuing lineout was not straight and all momentum was lost. Sam Deroeck, in his first game for the Gaijin, didn't need momentum though as he broke out just inside the Fuji half and beat three defenders in a weaving run and scored next to the posts. With the successful conversion from Miyano it was 12 v 0 to the Gaijin.
Due to the humidity a water break was the next major action in the game and soon after the newly hydrated Gaijin were on the pump inside the Fuji 22 metre line. Strong runs from Nik Pasevic then Joe Nawaqavanua led to Daisuke Ikegami forcing himself over the tryline despite the tackle of two defenders. Miyano successfully converted to make the score 19 v 0.
A strong run from the next kickoff from Pasevic again, and then a string of passes out into the backs was looking promising but Jesse Takahashi dropped Alaister Nimmo's pass as he looked like he may break away. Then Gaijin halfback Tristan 'by the pool' O'Connor, in his last game for the Gaijin before he heads to Thailand, was penalized for a fend in the face. (Editor's note: This is the first time I have seen someone penalised for this but the referee did actually warn both teams before kickoff). But then two quick penalties in a row for ruck infringements against Fuji Club saw the Gaijin gain the upper hand and Sam Deroeck raced down the right wing for another 45 metre effort to score under the posts. Miyano again converted to put the Gaijin out to a 26 v 0 lead.
Not long after the ensuing kickoff big Joe Nawaqavanua broke out from 15 metres within his own half and didn't need the players in support as he showed good pace to outrun the chasing defenders and score. Toshi Miyano failed with the conversion but the Gaijin would go into halftime with a healthy 31 v 0 lead.
Despite the scoreline the Tokyo Gaijin RFC had not held a great territorial advantage. In fact, territory and possession were quite even, but the Gaijin had scored a number of long distance tries. The Gaijin pack had schooled Fuji Club at scrum time and good scrambling defense had kept the Gaijin tryline uncrossed.
The first score of the second half came after Fuji Club knocked on a Toshi Miyano clearance kick. From the ensuing scrum Takashi Tanikawa had a charge at the line but was caught short. The ball was quickly recycled and shifted out the backs and across to Sam Deroeck who outpaced the cover to score his third try. Toshi Miyano converted to take the Gaijin out to a handsome 38 v 0 lead.
Soon after a good straight charge up the middle of the ruck from fullback Alaister Nimmo put him in space but he was caught by his opposite number. He managed to offload to the supporting Tristan 'by the pool' O'Connor who then offloaded to Daniel Worden who raced over the line to score. Miyano hit the posts with his conversion attempt to leave the score 43 v 0.
The next try also went to the Gaijin when a Gaijin chip kick bounced beautifully for Joe Nawaqavanua to grab and race round the upcoming defense and sprint 80 metres to score. Miyano converted to make the score 50 v 0.
At this stage just a few changes had been made in an effort to keep the momentum going and keep Fuji RFC to zero, which would ensure another bonus point (a Shuto League local rule). With the score hitting 50 nil it was decided to make a whole host of changes and this brought about some disjointedness in the Gaijin play. Lax defense soon after saw the Fuji Club finally cross the Tokyo Gaijin RFC line. They failed to convert though and they were still a daunting 50 v 5 behind on the scoreboard.
The Gaijin were soon back at the other end following a few penalties and a strong scrum. Apisai Bati made a strong run at the line but was brought down in a desperate tackle. He managed to pop the ball up from the ground to Natsu Kunitomo in support and he ambled across the line untouched. Miyano converted again and the score had gone to 57 v 5.
Fuji RFC then worked their way up to the Gaijin line. They were awarded a penalty from 10 metres out and crashed through some poor Gaijin defense that failed to come up quickly from the tryline, to score midway between posts and sideline. This time they were successful with the conversion and the score now stood at 57 v 12.
The Gaijin were deservedly to have the last laugh when 47 year old Kazuhiro Takai, having a short 'guest appearance' for the Gaijin, ghosted through a gap and then dummied through another and passed onto Apisai Bati as he drew the last defender, to give Bati a clear run to the line. With Miyano off the field, Yamagen took the kick but was unsuccessful. Final score 62 v 12.
The Gaijin victory came courtesy of a solid scrummaging performance. The Fuji pack rarely gained parity and were often backpeddling which made it hard for their backs to get front-foot ball. The Gaijin had also forced a few scrum turnovers. In the backs, Joe Nawaqavanua and Sam Deroeck were dangerous every time they touched the ball in standout displays. It was Tristan O'Connor's last game before he heads off to Thailand in an effort to leave English teaching behind. But where one players leaves another one rises and newcomer Sam Deroeck showed that he would be a more than capable replacement.
SCORE: TGRFC 62 (Sam Deroeck 3, Joe Nawaqavanua 2, Nik Pasevic 1, Daisuke Ikegami 1, Dan Worden 1, Natsu Kunitomo 1, Apisai Bati 1 tries; Toshi Miyano 6/9 conversions, Yamagen 0/1 conversions) v FUJI RFC 12 (2 tries, 1/2 conversions)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Sam Deroeck
1. Tommy Nasuno (Japan)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. Chris Lucas (Australia)
4. Andy Ballard (England)
5. Richard O'Shea (Wales)
6. Nik Pavesic (Croatia)
7. Shinichiro Nakayama (Japan)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Tristan O'Connor (Australia)
10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)
11. Daisuke Ikegami (Japan)
12. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
13. Joe Nawaqavanua (Fiji)
14. Sam Deroeck (England)
15. Alaister Nimmo (England)
Reserves used: Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland), Mosese Rarasea (Fiji), Natsu Kunitomo (Japan), Ismael Suarez (Spain), Jesse Takahashi (USA), Akio Yoneda (Japan), Daniel Worden (NZ), Takeshi Ochiai (Japan), Apisai Bati (Fiji), Joao Pinto (Portugal), Ikuo Fukuda (Japan), Epi Tabulawaki (Fiji), Hiro Nakajima (Japan), Yoshihiro Sato (Japan), Kazuhiro Takai (Japan), Yamagen (Japan)