18th March, 2012.
The weekend of the 17th and 18th of March, 2012, was one of the biggest on record in the 20+ year history of the Tokyo Gaijin. Not only was it the first time that the Tokyo Gaijin had earned the right to play in the final of the Cup Winners Cup, but they had earned the right to do so by beating two of the strongest teams in the compeitition in qualification. Added to this was the unfortunate timing of the final, as it clashed with the long planned tour of the Tokyo Gaijin to the Manila Tens as they have done every year for the past six years.Finals rugby is something to be excited about and the build-up midweek had the team focused on the task at hand. There were several changes to the team from the previous week, but with some capable replacements stepping into the breach confidence was still high. Edogawa Athletics Field was the venue and the pitch was perfect for running rugby and conditions had improved from the previous day and there was only light drizzle at times that would affect the game.
However, the big occasion would prove to be a bridge too far for the Tokyo Gaijin. A very slick Komaba WMM (Watermelon Men) team with pace to burn summarily dispatched the efforts of the Gaijin. They too were fired up for the final and took the game to the Gaijin from the outset with the score getting away from the Gaijin in the end at 51 - 14.
It was a very physical game and the Gaijin started to pick up a few injuries to crucial members in crucial positions. In fact the TGRFC lost all three of the players, for some part of the game, that had been adjudged to be 'Men of the Match' in the previous two games. Sam Deroeck the destructive hardrunning fullback succumbed to a knee injury, Matt Downer spent time of the pitch having his nose seen to,and Richard O'Shea would leave the pitch at half-time with a twisted knee. These unfortunately weren't the only injuries. Toshi Miyano, Touch Roy, Murray Clarke and Maoula Sega would also succumb to injuries of various seriousness.
The game didn't start well for the Gaijin when a poor clearing kick from laziness at the kickoff gave Komaba the ball early on attack. Their no. 8 had a sneaky sideline run that bought him close to the tryline, but he was bundled out well by Dan Worden. A later big tackle by John Herger and quick work from the turnover ball released Sam Deroeck with a clean line break and some field position. Another poorly executed kick from the usually reliable Miyano actually provided a scoring opportunity for the Gaijin when Downer cleverly kept it in play. Unfortunately just before his last tap ahead the ball had gone into touch, but the Gaijin were in much better position on the Komaba 22m line.
A long spell on attack in the Komaba 22 was to follow. The referee played the advantage well and the Gaijin narrowly missed taking first blood. Fullback Deroeck just couldn't hold onto a pass under pressure that would have had him over the line. The Komaba feed on the 5m line would help them relieve pressure. Instead they did a pick and go from the scrum that did not clear the ball far. Then came the start of problems in the lineout for the Gaijin that would dog them all game long. Not winning their own ball and then penalised for not rolling away from the tackle let Komaba out of jail.
The Gaijin scrum was working well, but the No. 8 for Komaba was breaking well from the base of their scrum to get them front foot ball and their rucking and mauling was a finely tuned machine and they got ball wide quickly to leave us stretched on the outside. It was one of these 50m forays into the Gaijin half that led to Downer going off for a spell to get his nose seen to at about the 15 minute mark.
The next 5 minutes were all Komaba with the Gaijin defending their line well and sustaining a few penalties in the process. The referee was understandably getting aggravated with the slow roll-aways and hands in the ruck and gave the Gaijin a warning. It was not long after this that Hitoshi Chihara was dismissed for 10 minutes for making no effort to roll away from the ball. Not long after this Komaba had their first try in the lefthand corner. It was converted for a 7-0 lead at the 23 minute mark.
They would score again quickly after another string of penalties for off-side and not retiring 10m at the penalty. The Komaba WMB were masters of the quick tap and go and were catching the slowly retiring Gaijin each time. After stretching the Gaijin each time their no. 4 went over to extend the lead to 12-0 with an unconverted try. More of the same would give them another unconverted 5 pointer to make the score 17 v 0. The 10 minutes that the Gaijin were down to 14 men was a profitable one for the Komaba team.
The Gaijin got some go forward ball from the kickoff with Downer running strongly. With the Gaijin on the front foot the penalties started to fall in their favour. From a scrum close to the line Takashi Tanikawa ran strongly and then Nik Pavesic claimed the first try which kept the Gaijin in the game. Matt Downer converted well to get the maximum 7 from the score. 17-7.
This would have been a nice way to end the half. The forwards did well to win a tighthead and a subsequent kick and turnover put the Gaijin in control in the Komaba half. Again poor decision making from a chip over the line by Chihara let Komaba have one last chance. They spun the ball wide, won quick ball from their rucks and had another try that was converted before the halftime whistle. 24-7
17-7 would have been bearable, but the 24-7 scoreline was a little disappointing. The Gaijin had come back from this deficit only weeks before though, so belief in the team was still strong that they could turn it around if they could just minimize penalties and keep 15 on the paddock. Murray Clarke replaced Richard O'Shea who had sustained a knock on the leg.
Komaba took first blood after the break. All too easy tries right before and straight after the break had turned the game on its head. The try was unconverted but Komaba had the game in their hands at 29-7
Maoula Sega and his big efforts all game were the catalyst for the next try. He was dragging in tacklers all game andon this occasion he pulled in 2 tacklers, got his arms through the gap and sucked in another two defenders and from nothing put Takuya Saitou in space so that he could leg it to the tryline. Downer again converted from out wide with a sweet strike to take full value from the effort. 29-14. If the Gaijin could get the next score as well, the game was still on.
That wasn't to be the case, with a good maul drawing in the forwards and the Komaba standoff making a jinking run. He ran in under the posts virtually untouched scything through three would-be defenders who made minimal effort to tackle. 36-14 and the game was almost beyond the Gaijin.
Murray Clarke went off and Takashi Tanikawa was subbed after a hard effort. Bati Apasai and Paulo Berriozabal would add some fresh legs and hopefully a bit of solidity and spark into the forward pack.
Takuya Saitou went close to bagging a brace, but unfortunately just lost control of the ball as he hit the ground in the tackle. He had received the ball in the clear after Nik Pavesic had caught a good chip over the line from Miyano and had broken clear.
The game drifted back and forth for about another 10 minutes and then the fullback for Komaba broke through. The ball had come out badly from a scrum and had bounced up nicely for the fullback joining the line. The Gaijin backs who were contesting the ball were left flat footed in defence and only a covering Downer was able to get an ankle tap to the fullback. He went down before the line but slid over in the greasy conditions. 41-14 and the game was in the bag for Komaba.
With 5 minutes to go the Gaijin were desperately trying to gain some respectability to the scoreline and were throwing desperate passes to try and keep the ball alive. It just wasn't to be our day. The ball again was won cleanly by the Komaba team and the #15 went down the side-line again to pick up another good try for himself. Again unconverted but the 46-14 scoreline had indeed blown out.
Number 15 from Komaba popped up again at the end of the game to cap off a very good game for himself. He grabbed another try in the dying minutes of the game and finshed off the game at 51-14.
The Gaijin had played hard, but were guilty of too many mistakes and not finishing opportunities. Komaba capitalised on every half chance they had and that in itself was the difference in the game. However, the game was played in high spirits and the TGRFC team was pround of their efforts to make it the furthest they had ever gone in the tournament.
Thanks go to the oppositions and Tokyo Cup Winners Cup Champions Komaba WMM and the all spectators, supporters, team management, friends, family and the referee Mr. Rui Shimizu for an enjoyable day. Well done Tokyo Gaijin it was fun while it lasted. Lets get up and do the same again next year.
1. John Herger (USA)
2. Liam Ramshaw (Eng)
3. Manabu Totsuka (Japan)
4. Richard O'Shea (Wales)
5. Maoula Sega (Samoa)
6. Dan Worden (NZ)
7. Nik Pavesic (Croatia)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Al Nimmo (Eng)
10. Toshi Miyano (Jap)
11. Hitoshi Chihara (Jap)
12. Matt Downer (NZ)
13. Touch Roy (Australia)
14. Brian O'Brien (USA)
15. Sam Deroeck (Eng)
Reserves used: Murray Clarke (NZ), Paulo Berriozabal (Basque), Bati Apasai (Fiji), Sean Masaya (USA), Takuya Saitou (Japan), Ikuo Fukuda (Japan), Phillip Ferreira (South Africa).
SCORE: Komaba WMM 51 (9 tries, 3/9 conversions) Tokyo Gaijin: 14 (Nik Pavesic 1, Takuya Saitou 1 tries; Matt Downer 2/2 conversions.)