Dateline: 11th March, 2012

The Tokyo Gaijin RFC turned up at Hino Motors Rugby Ground out in western Tokyo for a date with Supermen RFC,  hoping to emulate their history-making win over Mandara Club two weeks prior. After two heavy defeats to the tune of over 30 points last year to the Supermen RFC, the Tokyo Gaijin RFC were keen on making amends and turning the tables on the caped crusaders. They were lucky to have Tsukasa Takasugi back from Kyushu to replace Takayuki Kitajima at tight-head prop and also big Samoan forward, Maoula Sega, guesting for them during a one month stay in Tokyo. A win would bring the TGRFC into the Final of the Champion's League (a.k.a the Cup Winner's Cup) which the Gaijin Club had never managed before in their 21 year history, being knocked out in the second round on each occassion they had made the Champion's League.

Supermen kicked off, running away from the clubhouse end, with a strong wind at their backs. Inside centre Matt Downer started with a good deep kick into Supermen territory but the opposition responded with an equally good kick back. Downer tried to trap it with his foot but it spun sideways and into touch....an early victory for Supermen. Supermen soon got a penalty 15 metres out from the Gaijin line and showed how cocky they were when they went for touch even though it was a gift 3 points. They rucked very well but the Gaijin counter-rucked with venom and won the ball. Alaister Nimmo made a nice snipe to get the Gaijin away from their own try-line and the Gaijin made their way upfield with good charges from forwards John Herger and Maoula Sega, with Sam Deroeck inserting himself just outside the standoff to good effect.

At the 8 minute mark the Gaijin had finally weathered the early storm and made their way into the Supermen's half. Bryan O'Brien went close to scoring and then Joe Nawaqavanua went close to the line but Supermen won a penalty for a ruck infringement and cleared to touch.

At the 15 minute mark there was a long stoppage as the right side Supermen winger was stretchered from the field with concern about his neck (happy to say he was seen walking around after the match).

Supermen were next to go close when their standoff cleverly chipped the ball to the corner and their left-side winger got a nice bounce. Luckily Sam Deroeck and Bryan O'Brien were awake to the danger and smashed the winger before he could plant the ball down over the tryline. Supermen's forwards were quick to the breakdowwn but the Gaijin once again out-rucked them and came away with the ball.

Soon after the Gaijin were to feel the full brunt of the referee. Joe Nawaqavanua made a good run up the centre of the field but was penalised for not releasing the ball after the tackle. Supermen took a quick tap and Liam Ramshaw moved in and tackled the ball runner. He was not back 10 metres and was penalised and shown a yellow card. It was a rather harsh decision with no previous warnings but 'God' had spoken and the Gaijin would have to play the next 10 minutes with only 14 men.

Supermen kicked for the corner and from the lineout bodies piled into the ruck at full pelt. Once again the Gaijin out-rucked their opposition and turned over the ball. Through sheer 'guts' the Gaijin were hanging on by a thread.

For the next 10 minutes the Gaijin baarely managed to keep their line intact. Every time they managed to work their way up to the halfway line they would find themselves defending in their own 22 metre area soon after. Supermen were tackling well with their low tackles bringing down some of the bigger Gaijin players with ease. Supermen were finding it equally hard to break the Gaijin defense and tried to chip over their opposition but Sam Dereoeck watched the ball go dead with three opponents bearing down on him.

The referee was the next to score when he penalised Shinchiro Nakayama for something.....long nails? scruffy hair? the wrong-coloured underwear? Not sure what it was but I'm guessing it was some kind of ruck penalty. When Nakayama questioned the decision he was shown a yellow card. God does not make mistakes! (Incidentally, the referee apologised to Nakayama after the game so apparently God does make mistakes!). So the Gaijin were now down to 13 men. Luckily Liam Ramshaw was back on the field just 30 seconds later to leave the Gaijin just one man down.

The Gaijin managed to keep their tryline uncrossed for the rest of the half with some excellent defense. Sam Dereock made one telling big hit that jolted the ball loose and Bryan O'Brien saved a try from a 5 metre scrum when he anticipated well and managed to hold up the big Supermen No.8. The Gaijin finished the half with one final flurry when Sam Deroeck made a big run into the Supermen half after retrieving a booming bomb. The ball was quickly recycled and prop John Herger found himself sprinting upfield near the sideline. With Bryan O'Brien on his outside all he needed to do was draw and pass and the Gaijin may have been in for the first try of the game but Herger muffed the pass and it went into touch.

So both teams went into their halftime huddles with no points. Nil all! Defense had been the name of the game throughout the first half with some excellent tackles form both sides. The bigger Gaijin forwards in  Maoula Sega and  Joe Nawaqavanua had made some good runs but copybook tackles around their legs had brought them down without too much damage being done. The Gaijin were just hoping that the tackling would take its toll. The Supermen RFC would have been disappointed not to have scored any points with a strong breeze at their backs and their opposition being reduced to 14 men for almost 20 minutes. While Supermen had enjoyed a territorial advantage they had been outrucked at times with the Gaijin counter-ruck being particularly strong. Matt Downer and Sam Deroeck looked strong with ball in hand and had also made some telling tackles in defense. Bryan O'Brien was also having a strong game out on the wing. The Gaijin took solace in the fact that they would have a strong wind at their back in the second half.

The Gaijin finally broke the deadlock not long into the second half when Sam Deroeck made up for a loose pass from Maoula Sega with a strong run back into the teeth of the enemy. He busted a few tackles and strode over the line near the posts to dot down. Matt Downer converted to put the Gaijin up 7 v 0.

Some great work from the Gaijin forwards from the kickoff had the Supermen players back-peddaling and earned them a penalty as their opposition was 'not rolling away' from the tackle area. Matt Downer stepped up to take the shot at goal and made no mistake. The Gaijin were now out to a handy 10 v 0 lead with the wind at their backs.

Supermen then managed to work their way up to within 10 metres of the Gaijin tryline but once again, superior rucking from the Gaijin forwards closed down their attack. Richard O'Shea took a nice intercept and knocked over a defender in a good 25 metre charge upfield and the Supermen were penalised in the following ruck and their dangerous standoff was shown the yellow card for a ruck infringement.

Now it was the Supermen's turn to play with only 14 men. The Gaijin sniffed opportunity and lifted their forward work. The very next ruck they rucked over the tackled Supermen player and won the ball. Big John Herger made a storming run up the centre of the field and the ball was then spread to the left. Joe Nawaqavanua beat the last tackle and raced over the line to put the Gaijin up 15 v 0. Matt Downer was unsuccessful with the conversion.

The Gaijin were now quite confident that victory was theirs and started playing with a new-found belief. Supermen, in their desperation to beat the Gaijin defense, tried a chip kick in their own 22 metre area. Gaijin winger, Keiichiro Endo, was first to the ball and broke away. He drew the cover in the form of the Supermen No.8 and gave an inside ball to Sam Dereock who raced away to score under the posts. Downer duly converted and the Gaijin were out to a seemingly unassailable lead of 22 v 0.

Things were not looking good for Supermen soon after when Matt Downer picked up a loose ball and sprinted away. He drew the fullback and passed to Keiichiro Endo who finished the move off in the corner. Downer was unsuccessful with the wide conversion attempt leaving the score at 27 v 0.

The Gaijin now started to chance their arm even more with the comfortable lead they were enjoying. They were back in the Supermen quarter from a Toshi Miyano kick after another superb Dereock run saw Matt Downer end up in touch after a last grasp tackle by the Supermen fullback. It was at this point that a second Supermen player was stretchered off the field showing that some of the big hits were taking their toll. Mosese Rarasea showed exactly this moments later with a big hit on a Supermen back to close down a potential overlap.

The next try was also to the Gaijin but came from a mistake. The Gaijin had a 5 metre lineout but the throw was not accurate and came down on the Supermen side. Hooker Liam Ramshaw made amends when he managed to snaffle the ball back and the Gaijin forwards piled in behind him and drove him over the line. Downer converted to make the score 34 v 0.

From the kickoff, reserve centre Mosese Rarasea was keen to make up for lost time, and broke through the defense with a strong run and fed the ball to Downer for the Gaijin to make another 50 metres upfield. The Supermen however, realising that they may end up with a 'pants down' zero scoreline, managed to halt the move and worked their way up into the Gaijin 22 metre area for one last throw of the dice. The opportunity looked to have passed when Downer saved the day by bundling their winger into touch after he had made a strong run down the wing. But a string of penalties gave them renewed hope and territory. Bryan O'Brien was penalised for picking up the ball in the ruck despite the fact that he was not the tackler and the only man on his feet but the referee was having none of that. Supermen deserved some points afterall (sarcasm noted?). From the quick tap Mosese Rarasea was adjudged to have tackled high and to have not been back ten metres and was given the 4th yellow card of the game. The Gaijin would have to finish the game with just 14 players again. The string of penalties and perhaps tiredness finally broke the Gaijins' stiff resolve and Supermen crashed over for their first and only try of the game. They converted to make the score a slightly more respectable 34 v 7.

The Gaijin would finish the scoring though when Richard O'Shea capped off a strong match by diving over the tryline after some committed rucking from the Gaijin forwards. Captain Alistair Nimmo, showing why he doesn't usually take the shots at goal, muffed the conversion badly leaving the final score at 39 v 7.

The victory was just as sweet as the one 2 weeks before over Mandara RFC and the Gaijin were now into the final of the Champion's League and due to face the Komaba Watermelon Men. This is a new page in the 21 year history of the Tokyo Gaijin RFC so the boys should be very proud. It doesn't get any easier but the Gaijin should feel extremely happy that the results put them in the top two amateur teams of all the Tokyo Leagues.

The result was also sweet revenge over the Supermen RFC for those two bashings received last year. The Gaijin had toiled admirably and had overcome having only 14 players for a good 25 minutes of the match. Richard O'Shea was given the Man of the Match award for a strong performance amongst a very hard-working forward pack. The rucking and counter-rucking of the Gaijin forwards was special and set the platform for victory. Matt Downer and Sam Deroeck were obvious standouts in the backs for the Gaijin and the Supermen No.10 also had a very good game and marshalled his side well.

SCORE: TGRFC 39 (Sam Deroeck 2, Joe Nawaqavanua 1, Keiichiro Endo 1, Liam Ramshaw 1, Richard O'Shea 1 tries, Matt Downer 1/1 penalties, 3/5 conversions, Al Nimmo 0/1 conversions) Supermen 7 ( 1 try, 1 /1 conversions)

MAN OF THE MATCH: Richard O'Shea

Goat(s) of the Match: Liam Ramshaw, Shinichiro Nakayama, Mosese Rarasea (for those yellow cards)

TEAM:

1. John Herger (USA)

2. Liam Ramshaw (England)

3. Tsukasa  Takasugi (Japan)

4. Richard O'Shea (Wales)

5. Maoula Sega (Samoa)

6. Joe Nawaqavanua (Fiji)

7. Shinichiro Nakayama (Japan)

8. Nikola Pavesic (Croatia)

9. Alaister Nimmo (England)

10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)

11.Bryan O'Brien (USA)

12. Matt Downer (NZ)

13. Touch Roy (Australia)

14. Keiichiro Endo (Japan)

15. Sam Deroeck (England)

Reserves used: Takeshi Koba (Japan), Akio Yoneda (Japan), Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque), Daniel Worden (NZ), Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)