Dateline: October 23rd, 2011

With a two week hiatus in the Shuto League the Tokyo Gaijin RFC arranged a ‘Friendly’ match against the Fevers RFC in the interests of giving more game time to newcomers and less experienced players. The Fevers RFC were an unknown quantity as it is believed that they do not actually play in any league and go from ‘friendly’ match to ‘friendly’ match. The game was set to be played at the Musashi Sports Complex in Mitaka City, a beautiful oval surrounded by a running track and flanked by a rather large grandstand. After a day of rain the weather gods were also happy, with the game played in nice spring sunshine. From the opening whistle the Tokyo Gaijin RFC were full of running with the new center combination of Roy Touchee and Rod McDonald making a combined 70 metre run upfield, which should have led to a try. The last pass went to Daisuke Ikegami who spilled the ball with an open try line in front of him. He was later given the Goat of the Match award for butchering the simplest of tries.

The Gaijin made amends soon after when Nik Pavesic scored the first 5-pointer of the afternoon from a forward drive after a lineout on the Fevers 10 metre line. The conversion was missed by Hitoshi Chihara but the Gaijin were out to an early 5 v 0 lead.

Play then swayed back and forth as each team tried to gain ascendancy. The Gaijin worked their way into the Fevers 22 metre area but then coughed up the ball. Some big runs from the forwards though kept the pressure on and Rod McDonald raced over in the far right corner after a quick penalty tap. Chihara again missed the conversion to leave the score 10 v 0 to the Gaijin.

Soon after acting captain Richard O’Shea was off with an ankle injury forcing a reshuffle in the forward pack. Mosese ‘Mojee’ Rarasea moved to No.8, Daniel Worden moved from 8 to flanker and Nik Pavesic moved into the vacant lock position.

There followed some very good periods of passing with the center pairing of Touchee and McDonald figuring prominently and feeding their outside backs quality ball with room to move. Too often though the ball would be given up in contact situations.

Eventually something stuck and Dan Worden increased the Tokyo Gaijin lead with a nice 25 metre run over the line and improved his position by running around under the posts. In the leadup to his try prop Natsu Kunitomo confused the defense when he dummied to his left, shuffled forward a bit, then dummied to his right and finally passed the ball directly behind him to Roy Touchee moments before he was tackled. He then fell to the ground and the fallen Kunitomo then tripped up Touchee and brought him sprawling to the ground. Quade Cooper he ain’t but I must admit that the defense had been tricked by Kunitomo’s feints even though it all looked a bit comical. Despite Worden’s efforts to make the conversion easier Chihara missed with the conversion from in front. The score now stood at 15 v 0 to the Gaijin.

 

The Gaijin rucking was weak at times and gifted easy turnover ball as the players seemed to be working as individuals inside of hunting as a pack. A quick penalty tap led to the next try that was scored by Wataru Sato who raced into a space out wide and dived over the tryline to score midway between posts and sideline. Dave Middleditch took over the kicking duties and nailed a nice conversion to make the score 22 v 0.

 

At halftime the Gaijin held a handy lead but probably should have been ahead by even more. They had made a lot of half breaks but poor handling had let them down at crucial stages. The Gaijin held a territorial advantage and had had the majority of possession but the Fevers RFC had a slight advantage in the rucking stakes. The Gaijin were superior individually but it was the team-work that was letting them down. The set pieces were fairly even.

 

Wataru Sato had hurt his ankle while scoring his earlier try so there was another reshuffle in the Gaijin side with team stalwart Apisai Bati coming onto the wing and Stuart McDonald moving to halfback. The younger of the McDonald brothers immediately set about hassling his opposite number and causing him headaches at scrum time. His brother Rod was to be the beneficiary as he broke through the defense to score a try after a quick tap from a scrum penalty. Middleditch missed with the conversion and the Gaijin now had a rather large lead at 27 v 0.

 

With the game seemingly getting away from them the Fevers knew they would have to be next to score and that is exactly what they did. From the kickoff Nik Pavesic did some ‘dirty dancing’ and tried to open a gap for Daisuke Ikegami but the result was loose ball and a Tokyo Gaijin knock-on. From the back of the ensuing scrum the Fevers worked a clever move that bamboozled the defense and the fly-half broke through Hitoshi Chihara’s tackle to score near the posts. They inexplicably missed the conversion however and the score now stood at 27 v 5 to the TGRFC.

 

At this stage Dan Worden came off for a break and was replaced by ‘Mr Perpetual Motion’, Shinichiro Nakayama.

 

Chihara’s kickoff was a shocker and saw the Fevers earn a scrum on the halfway mark. They failed to capitalize on the error but poor passing from the Gaijin was also costing their team points. Eventually though the Gaijin worked their way up to the Fevers 22 metre line from a penalty kick. There was a forward drive from the ensuing lineout and then a clever inside ball from standoff Hitoshi Chihara to Apisai Bati flying in off his wing which led to Bati going through a gap and then around the fullback to score. This time Mosese Rarasea stepped up to take the conversion but he was no more successful than those before him leaving the score at 32 v 5.

 

Andy Ballard, who had taken over the captaincy duties with O’Shea off the field, didn’t set a good example when he spilled the kickoff to give the Fevers RFC a scrum on the Gaijin 22 metre line. The Gaijin scrum was solid though and the pressure created produced a penalty. A quick tap and a string of passes and a chip kick by Daisuke Ikegami got the ball near the Fevers 22 metre area but it all came to nothing when Takashi Tanikawa, who is usually an angel on the field, was penalized for a high tackle.There followed a stanza where the ball moved from 22 metre line to 22 metre line. It looked like Fevers would be next to score when they strung together a sweeping backline move only to see them butcher the try due to bad handling.

 

Then it was the Tokyo Gaijins’ turn to make some errors, however a bad pass from Mojee Rarasea was given a let off when the Gaijin were awarded a penalty. A quick tap from Bati caught the defense napping but he then threw a wild flick that went to ground. Luckily for the Gaijin, they were given a successive penalty as their opposition had not retired the mandatory 10 metres. Another quick penalty tap saw Hitoshi Chihara race over the line to score. This time it was Gaz Dalrymple’s turn to miss the conversion. Score: 37 v 5.

 

A great take by Nik Pavesic from the kickoff and some perfect passing along the line saw Yoz Togo, who had only been on the field for 5 minutes, race almost 20 metres to score under the posts in what is his first try for the Gaijin. Yes fans, his pace is rather deceptive. He’s actually slower than he looks! It was like slow motion! Yamagen took the conversion from in front of the posts. As he was coming in to kick it the ball fell off the tee. So he picked it up and tried to drop kick it. The ball spun sideways in what can only be called an atrocious kick and another two points went begging. Score: 42 v 5.

 

The Gaijin hadn’t finished scoring though and edged their way up field with a free kick from a scrum. Mojee Rarasea steamrolled into the defensive line and some quick passing along the line and a lovely wrap-around play saw Andy Ballard score close to the corner. The conversion from Yamagen was unsuccessful. Score: 47 v 5 to the Gaijin.

 

Ballard then undid his good work by again spilling the kickoff. A penalty was given up by the Gaijin and a quick tap taken by the Fevers but they were having their own handling demons and gave up a good chance to add further points. The Gaijin would finish the scoring and break the half-century mark when Rod McDonald finished off some nice passing and running to score in the corner. It was his third try for the match and well deserved. Yamagen again missed the conversion in what was a miserable show of goal kicking from the Gaijin making the final score 52 v 7.

 

The score line was a blowout to the Gaijin who were just too strong but Fevers could consider themselves unlucky not to get more points. While there were periods of good interplay and passing from the Tokyo Gaijin they had played as a team of individuals for the most part with certain players trying to do too much. When passes should have been given ‘tunnel vision’ came to the fore. When the ball should have been taken to ground to be recycled flick passes were thrown. It was a ‘friendly’ game after all and the Gaijin were instructed by Vice-Captain Ballard to ‘go out and have fun’ and that’s the way they played…festive ‘throw the ball around’ rugby.

Nik Pavesic and Shinichiro Nakayama stood out in the forwards while eventual Man of the Match Rod McDonald had a blinder in the centers and was rewarded with a hatrick of tries in only his second game for the Gaijin. Centre partner Roy Touchee, in his first game for the Gaijin, also made some strong runs and proved very hard for the defense to tackle. The Goat of the game was awarded to 2 players – Daisuke Ikegami for blowing the first potential try of the match and to Hitoshi Chihara for missing the only tackle that led to a try and missing a goal from in front. The goal-kicking from the Gaijin was very poor and needs addressing promptly.

Prior to the game, the Phoenix RFC, an Old Boys Club who some Gaijin players often play for, played against Sunday Barbarians. The Gaijin were represented by Joffa Harris, Jo Iwasaki, Apisai Bati, Toru Kanamori, Takashi Tanikawa,  Gaz Dalrymple and Yamagen. The Phoenix RFC won the game 15 v 7 with the Tokyo Gaijin members contributing all the points with tries to Jo Iwasaki and Gaz Dalrymple and Yamagen converting 1 try and a penalty.

Score: TGRFC 57 (Rod McDonald 3, Nik Pavesic 1, Dan Worden 1, Wataru Sato 1, Apisai Bati 1, Hitoshi Chihara 1, Yoz Togo 1, Andy Ballard 1 tries; Hoshi Chihara 0/3, David Middleditch 1/3, Mosese Rarasea 0/1, Gaz Dalrymple 0/1, Yamagen 0/3 conversions )  Fevers RFC 5 (1 try, 0/1 conversions)

Man of the Match: Rod McDonald

Goat of the Match: Hitoshi Chihara & Daisuke Ikegami

Team:

1. Eric (USA)

2. Liam Ramshaw (England)

3. Natsu Kunitomo (Japan)

4. Richard O'Shea (c) (Wales)

5. Andy Ballard (vc) (England)

6. Nik Pavesic (Croatia)

7. Dave Kelver (USA)

8. Daniel Worden (NZ)

9. Wataru Sato (Japan)

10. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)

11. Daisuke Ikegami (Japan)

12. Touchy Rob (Australia)

13. Rod McDonald (Canada)

14. Stuart McDonald (Canada)

15. David Middleditch (England)

Reserves used: Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland), Takashi Tanikawa (Japan), Shinichiro Nakayama (Japan), Mosese Rarasea (Fiji), Toru Kanamori (Japan), Apisai Bati (Fiji), Yamagen (Japan)