The tournament started for me on Wednesday night when I arrived at the Oxford Suites Hotel and met up with Team Manager Chris Lucas, who was good enough to make sure that I was all checked in and well looked after.
I then went downstairs to the hotel lobby where the waiting started...
The one thing I've noticed about rugby tours is that you spend ages waiting for everyone to arrive. Usually most people are on time, it is just the last 2 or 3 that result in everyone hanging around for an average of about half an hour while the dozy few take their time getting there - on one occasion that was me after closing my eyes for "5 minutes" after taking a shower! :-(
The first two nights consisted of drinking in our sponsor's bar, Wild West Shot Bar, and then visiting some old haunts to see if they were still up to scratch from previous years. Mauro was pleased to find that Rogues still met his expectations.
However, I was disappointed to find out that "High Heels" seemed more concerned with fleecing their clientele than they were with having fun than I remembered from previous tours.
For the sake of our sponsor's: "Wild West" I should mention that it was an excellent bar with lots of cheap beer which we all enjoyed. The Jenga was good fun and I even saw big Joe enjoying himself on one occasion. ;-)
For the sake of the sponsorees - probably not a word but let's go with it - I should mention that the girls had all the animation and sparkle of a maths lecture covering the finer points of partial differentiation, on a particularly dreary day. In general, we left the bar feeling that we should have been buying the girls Prozac and not lady drinks!
Friday daytime was spent team-bonding at the Shangri-La pool. This primarily involved taking over the pool to burn off some energy playing swimming-pool touch rugby. On the way back to the hotel Chris suddenly started to feel guilty about the lack of technology available to the local street kids of Makati and decided to "donate" his phone to the sly kid who put his hand straight into Chris's "man-bag". Good on ya Chris for making your technology available to the young scamps! You are a charitable man! :-)
Friday evening was spent in a taxi: to and from the Intramuros Golf course. There was some golf played as well. However, this was more of a minor interlude between a two-hour taxi ride to the course and a one hour search for a taxi after. Mercifully, the taxi ride back took only 30 mins.
...This was for all apart from Chris's group, who decided that modern transport was for uncultured scum, as they proceeded to climb into a horse-drawn cart. Five minutes later the benefits of the automated horse-less carriage became immediately apparent as the horse - almost dropping from exhaustion - broke a shoe. Obviously it was all the fault of the over-weight foreigners and they had to fork out an extra 500 pesos to cover the damage!
As far as the golf was concerned: the Tokyo Gaijin Vice-Captain: Shinichiro Nakayama was looking particularly resplendent in his golfing attire - we'll ignore the bunny suit! He was the only one to have brought his own golfing glove - and shoes(?). Shin was only slightly upstaged by Pete Harris who seemed to be the only member of our group who could hit the ball over 20 metres in a straight line.
By Friday night our number had finally reached rugby-team size and after picking up our team kit - well organised by Rick Bales - we had our first big night out in full tour dress.
We had a team dinner at Howzat where we all got to hear the Leighton Larrikins congratulating themselves on how wonderful they were. There was then a particularly poignant moment when their photographer asked if we were going to lose again "like we usually do!".
While it's a bit difficult to compete with a team of 20 plus invitational players who get all expenses paid, we have been known to put out the odd decent side and have even won the bowl once. Not bad for an amateur side that only plays or practices once a week.
After some food and few self-righteous drinks we headed down to the obligatory Wild-West A few cheap beers and Jenga games later, it was time to shoot off before the depression set in.
If memory serves it was Rogues next, although I petered out around this time to get some sleep in preparation for our early game against the Hapons the next morning.
We were all bleary-eyed as we rocked up to the Nomads at about 06:30 for our first game at 07:30.
After putting on our team kit we started to feel much better as we actually looked the part with the new kit Mauro Sauco did a great job of designing, and Oakwood did a great job of buying. Personally, I think it was the best kit at the tournament.
With the insult from the previous night still ringing in our ears we decided to put in a decent performance.
Our first game was against the Manila Hapons and we looked pretty tasty as we beat them 5-0, with Chris Lucas scoring the first try of the tournament.
Our good start and sartorial elegance resulted in 2 new recruits from the UK: Chris(?) and somene else. Chris was a good county-level player from England - the other guy couldn't play for toffee.
Unfortunately, our good start could not be continued and we lost the second game 12-0 against the Seoul Survivors and our third game 17-5 against the Manila Ibons.
The Seoul Survivors was our hardest game and the fact that we couldn't get the ball out to the backs, tired out the forward,s and prevented us from spreading the ball/effort and really attacking the Survivors.
The Ibons weren't that strong but they had one very nippy back. He was quick and had a great side-step making me look like a lumbering fool on at least one occasion.
Still, we had done enough to get into the bowl and tomorrow was another day...
We started off playing against a British army team: The Flying Kukris. It was a good hard fought match - again mostly in the forwards - and we lost 5-0.
That was us out of the tournament for another year. :-(
My feeling was that we played too much like a 15's side. We didn't hold the line well enough and we all took the ball into too much contact. We didn't keep the ball alive and played too much like a 15's side and not enough like 10's rugby side.
There also seemed to be a real disconnect between the forwards and the backs. Not enough ball went from the forwards to the backs - and this was pretty much in all of our games.
Something else we suffered from was not knowing each other well enough. Most of us hadn't played with each other before and, those that had, often hadn't played together for years. (Editor's note: This was because we had ex-Gaijins in Mauro coming from Singapore, Mike Parks coming from Australia, Peter Harris coming from England, and three recruits from England who had never played with the Gaijin.
Next year we're going to open the tour up to the London Japanese to try to add a second pool of strong players to add to the Tokyo Gaijin touring side.
Mauro ia going to work on the sponsorship to ease the financial pain on some of our players.
Joffa is going to start pushing the tour early with the Gaijin and Mike will do the same with the London Japanese.
We'll get the team to meet up on the Thursday and have at least one practice session together on the Friday. We need to get used to each other and also practice tactics for playing in a 10s tournament.
After the rugby
After watching the rest of the day's games - mostly with free food and beer in the Oakwood tent :-) - we had the obligatory Manila 10's curry and then it was off to our sponsor's for the kangaroo court...
As proceedings were closed to the public no information can be divulged. However, it all went very well and there were some very well-punished people staggering about afterwards. Credit should also be given to Matt from London Japanese who made the whole proceedings an awful lot more amusing than they may otherwise have been. We should also credit our sponsors who provided us with the venue and large quantities of cheap beer! :-)
The next day people met in small hung-over groups before heading off to their various flights.
All except Mike Parks, Pete Harris, JoffaHarris and Mauro Sauco, who headed off to an island: Puerto Galero where diving, drinking and relaxing was the order of the day.
2013 is next...
Come on you good thing!!