Dateline: January 22nd, 2012

After a day of constant rain and further rain in the bitterly cold morning Tokyo Gaijin RFC players were expecting their game against the Kawagoe Fighters to be cancelled, but the call came at 9am that the game was still on and a strong squad managed to gather at Kawagoe Train Station around noon for the 30 minute bus ride to Kawagoe Stadium. The Kawagoe Fighters were something of an unknown quantity. The TGRFC had played them before and lost but it was on the Sugadaira Tour about 3 years previously after the Gaijin had been on the turps all night and performed as such. So the form guide had to be thrown out the window.

The Gaijin were using this 'Friendly' game to blood three newcomers in Kosuke Yaoyagi, having his first game of rugby ever, and two Yanks in John 'Viking' Herger and John Simpson. It was also to be Takeshi Ochiai's first game for the club in 6 months after having various work commitments and volunteering up in the tsunami-hit area of northern Honshu.

The first scrum of the game, on the halfway line, showed that the Gaijin were going to dominate the set pieces when the Gaijin pushed their opposition off their own scrum feed and No.8 Takashi Tanikawa ran from the back of the scrum to the opposition 22 metre line. Over-enthusiasm from the forward runners though, led to dropped ball in the channnel between standoff and centre.

The opposition were the next to make some forward progress when their No.8 made a strong charge from the base of a back-pedaling scrum but a big tackle from Sam Deroeck on their inside centre on the next play led to a dominant Gaijin ruck and from the following scrum Ikuo Fukuda made a good 30 metre run and then Takeshi Ochiai added another ten metres. It all came to nothing when the third penalty in a row went against the Gaijin for not staying on their feet at the ruck.

At the 14th minute mark the Gaijin became the first team to break into the other sides' 22 metre line after a sweeping backline move.  From the next scrum the Gaijin pushed their opposition back and then turned them and won themselves the scrum feed. They did this again soon after and this time turned it into points when Takashi Tanikawa came off the back of the scrum and ran 20 metres through two tackles to score just to the left of the posts. The conversion was successful by Toshi Miyano and the Gaijin were the early leaders to the tune of 7 v 0.

After getting good field position from a string of penalties against the Gaijin for ruck infringements, namely not staying on their feet, the Kawagoe Fighters swung the ball wide and found that they had an overlap and their winger raced over to score out on the right. It was too wide for their kicker to convert leaving the scoreline 7 v 5 in favor of the Gaijin.

Not long after the kickoff , after two solid runs from both new Johns in Hereger and Simpson, the ball was swung out to Sam Deroeck who beat the cover defense out wide on the right and ran around to score under the posts. Miyano again converted to put the Gaijin out to a 14 v 5 lead.

But once again flimsy defense let the Fighters back into the contest with them making easy yards up field. The Gaijin did their best to cover a sweeping backline move but the Kawagoe inside centre kicked through a perfect chip kick and their winger was first to reach the ball and drop over the line. Once again they failed to convert and the score was now 14 v 10.

This was to be the score line at halftime. The positional stakes were fairly even with Kawagoe Fighters probably having a slight territorial advantage. The Kawagoe scrum was absolutely dominated by the Gaijin with John Herger at loose-head prop leading a committed Gaijin forward pack and clearly outpointing his opposite number and showing what a good pickup he is for the Gaijin side. The Gaijin were also slightly ahead in the lineouts having won three of their opposition's longer throws. The two backlines were fairly even with Sam Deroeck standing out for the Gaijin with some punishing defense and strong runs.

As the game was a 'Friendly' and organized to give all players game time quite a few changes were made at halftime. Takeshi Koba came on for Natsu Kunitomo at tight-head prop, Nik Pavesic came on for Richard O'Shea at lock, Shinichiro Nakayama came on for Daniel Worden at flank, Hitoshi Chihara for Toshi Miyano at standoff and Mosese 'Mojee' Rarasea for Ikuo Fukuda at outside centre.

The first try of the second half went to Gaijin prop Takeshi Koba after an excellent change of angle from Mosese Rarasea. Rarasea ran a straight line back in towards the forwards and went straight through the first defensive line. He managed to offload to Koba when he was caught by the cover defense and Koba ran like a back to cover the last 20 metres to the tryline. Hitoshi Chihara was successful with the conversion attempt to make the score 21 v 10.

At this stage Gaz Dalrymple replaced Liam Ramshaw at hooker.

Sam Deroeck then showed his class when he beat what seemed like the whole Kawagoe backline with blistering pace as he rounded would-be tacklers to run 65 metres to score. It was a great photo opportunity for those on the sideline because as Dereock placed the ball over the try line there were three Kawagoe players  directly in line with him laying sprawled on the ground about 10 metres apart as they had all tried and failed to bring Deroeck down. Chihara was unsuccessful with the conversion but the Gaijin now had a handy lead at 26 v 10.

Not long after, the TGRFC looked like they were in again after a neat inside pass from Ryogo Takemura saw Takeshi Koba go straight through a hole and over the line. The referee though, thought that the pass was forward and called the play back. It was marginal and perhaps a line ball at worst but the man with the whistle makes the final call and Koba was not to get a double.

Apisai Bati then came on for Takeshi Ochiai, who had had a strong game after his 6 month absence and was a willing ball carrier.

Bati, keen to make up for lost time, was to score the next try of the game. A great steal from Shinichiro Nakayama from a ruck led to a strong pick and drive from Nik Pavesic and then an offload to Bati who raced away to score. He missed his own dropkick conversion to make the score 31 v 10.

The lead was extended even further when a strong scrum from the Gaijin forced a turnover and Takashi Tanikawa peeled off the back and went blind. He managed to slip a pass to Bryan O'Brien who made good yards. Support was there quickly and almost saw Hitoshi Chihara score but he was tackled just short. Pavesic was Johnny-on-the-spot and picked up the ball from the back of the ruck, and dived over the try line. Bati missed the dropkick conversion attempt again but the Gaijin were now out to a seemingly unassailable lead of 36 v 10.

The bench was then cleared with the last reserve, Joffa Harris, coming on for Takeshi Tanikawa, who had had a very strong game at No. 8 and made some big runs from the back of the scrum. Harris had only been on for 2 or 3 minutes when he had a brain explosion. The Kawagoe Fighters were given a penalty for an infringement in the ruck. Their halfback tapped and ran. The back-peddaling Harris decided to give him a bump with his shoulderand knocked him over. Not back 10 metres and a shoulder charge - that's a yellow card and 10 minutes in the sin-bin.

The one man advantage didn't seem to go against the Gaijin as they were the next to score after some Seven's style rugby from the Fijian contingent in Mojee & Bati. Bryan O'Brien got the ball out on the left wing in some space and showed a clean set of heels as he raced 50 metres to score near the posts. The woeful kicking continued as Bati again missed the conversion but the Gaijin now led 41 v 10.

Sam Dereock made it a hatrick when he raced 50 metres to score again. Needless to say, the conversion was unsuccessful. Score: 46 v 10.

Not long after Joffa Harris got back on the Gaijin were penalised twice for talking back to the referee. (He claims it wasn't him!). The extra yards perked the Kawagoe side up and and they twice came close to scoring from rolling mauls directly from line-outs. Eventually they did score when the ball was cleared and their standoff went through weak defence in the centre. They converted their try but it was too little too late with the score at 46 v 17.

From the kickoff, Kawagoe kicked the ball straight back into Gaijin territory, and Joffa Harris, covering for O'Bryan who had chased the kickoff made a good run upfield to the Kawagoe 22 metre line. The ball was quickly recycled and Nik Pavesic ran through some rather flimsy defence to score his second try of the day. That made the final score 51v 17.

The score line made it seem like the game was easy for the Gaijin but that was certainly not the case. Until halftime it seemed like the result could go either way and the influx of more experienced players may have made the diffrence here fore the Gaijin. The referee was quite pedantic and penalised the ruck area a lot. The Kawagoe Fighters seem to benefit from this and would have easily won this statistic.

The backlines of both teams were a bit rusty in defense and basically cancelled each other out, though Sam Deroeck was a standout over all the other backs. He made some big tackles and worried the Kawagoe Fighters defenders with brute strength and speed. Captain and usual halfback, Alistair Nimmo, was a rock at fullback and solid under the high ball. Ryogo Takemura's passing at times slowed the Gaijin's rhythm but it was good to see him get a full game at halfback.

The forwards display was what won the game for the Gaijin. The scrum was absolutely fantastic and constantly had the Kawagoe Fighters scrum under pressure. It was hard to pick any particular forward out as they all toiled tirelessly but both new boys, John Herger and John Simpson, had big games. Nic Pavesic also added extra 'oomph' when he came on at halftime and Shinchiro Nakayama battled hard at the breakdown.

John 'Viking' Herger was awarded the Man-of-the-Match award narrowly ahead of three try hero Sam Deroeck. Recent birthday boy, Joffa Harris, was awarded the Goat of the Game for that Yellow Card brain snap.

MAN OF THE MATCH: John 'Viking' Herger

Goat of the Game: Joff Harris

SCORE: TGRFC 51 (Sam Dereock 3,  Nik Pavesic 2, Takashi Tanikawa 1, Takeshi Koba 1, Bryan O'Brien 1 tries, Toshi Miyano 2/2, Hitoshi Chihara 1/2, Apisai Bati 0/4 conversions) KAWAGOE FIGHTERS 17 (3 tries+ 1/3 conversions)

TEAM:

1. John Herger (USA)

2. Liam Ramshaw (England)

3. Natsu Kunitomo (Japan)

4. John Simpson-Daniel (USA)

5. Richard O'Shea (vc) (Wales)

6. Takeshi Ochiai (Japan)

7. Daniel Worden (NZ)

8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)

9. Ryogo Takemura (Japan)

10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)

11. Yosuke Yaoyagi (Japan)

12. Sam Deroeck (England)

13. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)

14. Bryan O'Brien (USA)

15. Alaister Nimmo (c) (England)

RESERVES USED: Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland); Takeshi Koba (Japan); Nik Pavesic (Croatia); Apisai Bati (Fiji); Shinichiro Nakayama (Japan);  Joffa Harris (Australia); Hitoshi Chihara (Japan); Mosese Rarasea (Fiji); Yamagen (Japan)