The Tokyo Gaijin RFC kept alive their hopes of making the semi-finals in Division 1 of the Tokyo Cup with a convincing 50 v 17 win over the Blue Lions. The result was quite impressive considering the Tokyo Gaijin RFC (TGRFC) were without their captain Alaister Nimmo, vice captain Shinichiro Nakayama and previous match's MVP David Chan due to social commitments. The team received good news before kickoff when prop John 'Viking' Herger decided to play despite a yet unhealed broken finger from a previous match, and Sam Deroeck passed a searching fitness to take his place at fullback. Dereocks's inclusion allowed the TGRFC the luxury of playing Takeshi Kawai at otuside centre.
The only other match between the two teams had been about 3 years earlier and ended in a 25 all draw so the Blue Lions were somewhat of a mystery team for the TGRFC. Their results in the pool games so far had been good, convincingly beating the Gentle Giants 56 v 17. The Gaijin had beaten the Giants 72 v 12 the week before so one could say that the two teams seemed evenly matched on previous results.
With the Gaijin runnning towards the river Richard O'Shea confidently took the opening kickoff the Gaijin crunched the ball up with ssome forward crashes and earned themselves an early penalty. From the line-out the Gaijin went very close to scoring but the defense was equal to the task and held them out. The ball was then swung wide and Nik Pavesic managed to flick the ball out the back in traffic and Tsukasa Takasugi looked like he would be the first try-scorer of the game. Unfortunately he put a foot into touch as he tip-toed down the side-line and the play was called back.
The TGRFC went close to scoring three times in the first 5 minutes but each time they were held up over the line. Then No. 8 Takashi Tanikawa knocked on at the back of a dominant scrum as it inched its way toward the Blue Lions try-line. Overeagerness and a lack of patience were working against the Gaijin and the Blue Lions managed to scramble the ball back towards halfway. Soon after, with Touch Roy knocking on the ball in a tackle, the Gaijin found themselves defending their own line. The loose ball was picked up and chipped downfield. Gaijin fullback Sam Deroeck decided to run the ball out from deep within his own 22 metre area and confronted a blue wall and got caught just inside his 22 metre area. The Gaijin defense managed to scramble back to assist him but Touch Roy was penalised for coming into the ruck from the side and the Blue Lions earned a penalty. They decided to go for the posts and their kicker made no mistake to put them on the board first with a 3 v 0 scoreline.
From the kickoff though, they made an elementary error, and were adjudged to be in front of their kicker. This got the Gaijin back on the front foot and into the Lions' territory...until the Gaijin were penalised for a ruck infringement. Their penalty kick for touch didn't quite go the distance and Bryan O'Brien was perfectly positioned to take advantage of their mistake. Unfortunately, he made a mistake of his own and knocked the ball on. The Ball is your friend boys!!
Toshi Miyano put an end to the period of mistake-ridden play when he made a nice break up the middle of the field. He managed to find support in the form of prop Tsukasa Takasugi who then passed onto Joe Nawaqavanua. Nawaqavanua chipped ahead as the defense got to him and winger Bryan O'Brien gave an honest chase and forced his opposing winger to kick the ball over his own dead-ball line close to the left flank. The Gaijin put in a powerful drive from the ensuing scrum and it twisted sideways. The Lions number nine dived into the scrum with the ball still at Takashi Tanikawa's feet but the referee decided to let play go on despite the blatant foul play. The Gaijin managed to get the ball back though and it was swung wide through the hands and right side winger Hitoshi Chihara capitalised on the overlap and crossed the line to score on the opposite wing. Toshi Miyano stepped up to nail the conversion from close to the side-line to put the Gaijin in front 7 v 3.
The Gaijin were in again soon after when the ball was quickly swung to the blind around the halfway mark and Touch Roy made a strong run and covered some good yards upfield. The ball was passed onto Takeshi Kawai who chipped ahead and regathered. He was caught just short of the tryline but the ball was quickly recycled and try-sniffer Nik Pavesic dived over from the back of the ruck. Miyano once again converted making the score 14 v 3.
The Gaijin were starting to look ominous and when Sam Deroeck made a nice break up the middle after a Lions' clearing kick it looked like the Gaijin were going to extend their lead. Deroeck was caught by the last defender and managed to pass the ball to big Joe Nawqavanua who made a hash of it and knocked on.
Nawaqavanua made up for his mistake soon after by getting the TGRFC's third try. From a scrum just outside the Lion's 22 metre area Nawaqavanua hammered the Lions No.8 moments after he picked up the ball from the back of the scrum and forced a turn-over and then ran 20 metres fobbing off 2 tacklers to score just to the left of the posts. Miyano proved to any doubters that he had his kicking boots on to add the two points and now the Gaijin had a healthy 21 v 3 lead.
Takeshi Kawai was rewarded for excellent support play when he was on hand to pick up the last try of the half. From a line-out win close to halfway the Gaijin spun the ball out to the backs. Touch Roy gave a nicely timed inside pass to Sam Deroeck hitting the line at pace. Deroeck broke a few tackles, as he always seems to do, but was once again claimed by the last defender. Kawai zoomed up on his inside and Deroeck managed to get away a nice pass before he hit the deck. Kawai raced the last 20 metres to score just to the left of the posts. Miyano finished the half with a perfect sheet when he steered the conversion through the posts to make the score 28 v 3.
The Blue Lions almost immediately hit back as they surged for some respectability before halftime. Dereock was in the thick of things again as he made a try-saving ball-and-all tackle 5 metres out from his own line. The Gaijin forwards poured in and managed to win the ball. Maoula Sega then fended off three tacklers as he made a powerful run to get the Gaijin out of the danger zone. Soon after the referee called a halt to the first half's proceedings.
The Gaijin went into the halftime break full of confidence. They had played well and had a handy 28 v 3 lead. Their forwards were dominating the set pieces and the backs were running the ball confidently. Powerful Samoan lock Maoula Sega was having a whale of a game and constantly throwing his ample body into tacklers. He had taken three consecutive kickoffs and got the Gaijin well over the gain line with strong runs. While the Lions were bravely going in low to tackle him the impacts were often sickening. His surges lifted his fellow forwards who threw themselves into rucks and mauls.
Toshi Miyano was having an excellent game at standoff with some clever little jinking runs but it was his defense that was also standing out. At one stage he drove back one of his much larger opposition props. Takeshi Kawai also put in some bruising tackles in defense to go with his brilliant running game. And Sam Deroeck was a rock at the back in defense to go along with his tackle shredding runs.
The Gaijin kicked off the second half hoping to kill off early any thoughts that the Blue Lions may have had of a comeback. Bryan O'Brien showed the commitment when he almost took his own teams' kickoff. The Lions managed to snaffle it in the end and instantly booted it downfield. Their obvious intention to play the territory game failed them though when Takashi Tanikawa ran the ball back strongly and made easy yards upfield. He drove over the halfway mark and then passed the ball off to Maoula Sega. Sega, holding the ball in one hand, then made numerous dummies as he feigned passing the ball to his support players. The defense held off him and next thing he was putting the ball down over the tryline. It was a cheeky try but well deserved as Sega had played his best game for the Gaijin to date. It brought a smile to the face of all onlookers as he comically toyed with his opposition and made it look all too easy. Miyano broke his perfect record when he failed with the conversion. Score: 33 v 03
From the following kickoff Nik Pavesic flicked the ball back to halfback Ryogo Takemura volleyball-style as he stretched for the ball over his head. Takemura spun it wide and Sam Dereock once gain set off upfield beating would-be tacklers with steps, turns of speed, and the occassional fend. As he made it into the Lions' half he was finally brought down in a tackle but Richard O'Shea was 'Johnny-on-the-spot' and pick and drove upfield making further good yards. O'Shea drew the fullback and threw a no-look pass to Joe Nawaqavanua who raced 30 metres to score next to the posts. Miyano converted out the Gaijin had a big lead of 40 v 3.
The Gaijin weren't finished and should have scored soon after except for wrong options being taken. Takeshi Tanikawa peeled off the back of a scrum near halfway and was too quick for the opposition loose forwards. He made good ground and then passed to Nik Pavesic who showed good fingertip control to take the rather loose pass. With options out wide he decided to pass inside to Hitoshi Chihara screaming up the middle but the ball was knocked on. If the ball had gone wide to Ikuo Fukuda who was unmarked I dare say the Gaijin lead would have increased even more.
The Gaijin made amends a few minutes later and capitalised on a Blue Lions mistake. From a scrum just inside the Lions' 22 metre line, middle of the field, the ball was hooked quickly back to their No.8. This had been happening all game rather successfully as they tried to minimize the dominant power of the Gaijinn scrum. On this occassion however, the ball came back too quickly for their No.8 to handle. As he went to pick it upand take off, the ball bobbled up his chest and forward, into the waiting arms of Gaijin flanker Nik Pavesic. Pavesic broke a few tackles to score under the posts. Unbelievably, Miyano missed the conversion but the Gaijin were seemingly 'home and hosed' at 45 v 3.
The Gaijin had done what they set out to do at halftime and an early points scoring blitz in the first 15 minutes of the second half had taken the game away from their opponents. The Gaijin forwards were working hard and 15 minutes into the half and the Blue Lions had barely had the ball.
With a lead of 45 v 3 and the game seemingly 'in the bag' some changes were made to the Gaijin team. Instead of providing the team with a renewed impact the team seemed to go off the boil. There followed a period of about 10 minutes where the Blue Lions dominated territory and the Gaijin looked lethargic. The Blue Lions finally did break through for their first try when their halfback went through a flat non-moving line to score under the posts. Mosese Rarasea was the only one to come forward and he unfortunately missed the tackle. His team-mates didn't move up to shut down the attack. The try was converted to add some respectability to the score for the Blue Lions at 45 v 10.
SCORE: TGRFC 50 ( ) BLUE LIONS 17 (3 tries, 1/3 conversions)
Man of the Match: Takeshi Kawai
Goat(s) of the Match: Mosese Rarasea, Joe Nawaqavanua, Takeshi Koba (all for being late and causing ulcers for the management as Tokyo Cup has strict time regulations for player registration on game day)
1. John Herger (USA)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. Tsukasa Takasugi (Japan)
4. Richard O'Shea (C) (Wales)
5. Mauola Sega (Samoa)
6. Joe Nawaqavanua (Fiji)
7. Nik Pavesic (Croatia)
8. Takeshi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Ryogo Takemura (Japan)
10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)
11. Bryan O'Brien (USA)
12. Touch Roy (Australia)
13. Takeshi Kawai (Japan)
14. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
15. Sam deroeck (England)
Reserves Used: Gareth Palmer (Wales), Takeshi Koba (Japan), Jesse Cutler-Takahashi (USA), Takeshi Ochiai (Japan), Apisai Bati (Fiji), Mosese Rarasea (Fiji), Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)