Dateline: May 20th, 2012The Tokyo Gaijin RFC (TGRFC) turned up at the Edogawa Rinkai Kyugijyo for their match against Waseda Old Boys in the Tokyo Cup 1st Division two and a half hours before their 2:30pm kickoff to go through the usual strict Tokyo Cup rigmarole of registration and dress check. It was then that they found out that Mosese Rarasea had forgotten to bring the jerseys. He made some quick phone calls to his wife but in the mean time the TGRFC managed to procure a set of jerseys from another team (Fuji Club) but found out at the dress check that the colours would clash with their opposition. They then borrowed a set from Baku & Clover Club. All the jerseys had been worn earlier in the day and with it being quite a hot morning they were all a bit on the nose but beggars can't be choosers. To everyone's relief Mrs. Rarasea turned up with the team jerseys just a minute before kickoff and the Gaijin quickly changed into their own strip. This was not the ideal start for the Gaijin and it showed in the first 20 minutes when they really struggled to get into the game. In the 3rd minute the Gaijin were penalised for holding onto the ball after the tackle 15 metres out from their own tryline. Waseda went for goal and duly converted to put them out to an early 3 v 0 lead in just the third minute of the game.
Waseda went further ahead in the 10th minute when the Gaijin were again penalised for a ruck infringement in front of their posts and the Waseda kicker made no mistake putting them out to a 6 v 0 lead.
The Gaijin were struggling to get out of their own half and every time they made their way up to halfway elemenatry mistakes would see them back defending on their own side of halfway. Despite the territorial advantage and a nice leg-up from the referee the Waseda Club was not making the most of their domination due to solid Gaijin tackling.
Waseda finally managed to crack the Gaijin defence in the 18th minute when they kicked for the corner from a penalty. From the following line-out they set up a driving maul and bundled over in the corner. They failed to convert but they had had all the running in the game and were now out to a handy 11 v 0 lead.
The constant penalties against the Gaijin for ruck infringements were starting to have an affect and at the 22nd minute mark they were penalised for talking back to the referee. Despite a dominant scrum the Gaijin were unable to get out of their own half due to the penalties against them but their stubborn defence was keeping them in the game. The referee was not adding to the game as a smooth spectacle of rugby giving penalties for minor infringements.
At the 34th minute mark the Gaijin were again penalised for diving over the ruck and sealing the ball off...or was it for hands in the ruck? It was one or the other, or both! With the penalty being awarded on the Gaijin 22 metre line the Waseda goal-kicker stepped up to convert it and put them out to a 14 v 0 lead.
The Gaijin players knew they would have to score before halftime to give themselves any chance of a comeback and to give their confidence a boost leading into the second half. In the 38th minute the Gaijin managed to put togther a good phase of play with some good charges by their forwards and a few breaks and found themselves firmly camped in their opposition's 22 metre area but they were penalised for holding onto the ball in the tackle and conceded a penalty to relieve pressure on the Waseda tryline.
They were soon back in the Waseda half and won the ball on the Waseda 22 metre line. Joe Nawaqavanua received the ball to the left of the ruck and in a two-on-two situation decided nothing much was on and put in a cheeky little kick over the top. As he did so you could hear supporters on the sideline yelling 'Noooo!', as they thought it was a 'nothing' kick that was just giving the ball straight back to Waseda when the Gaijin dearly needed points. The Waseda fullback ran over his tryline to retrieve the ball and as he was about to clear the ball to touch he was tackled by Bryan O'Brien (or was it Liam Ramshaw?) who had chased the kick hard. The ball was spilled sideways and Nawaqavanua who had chased his own kick hard as all good players should, dived on the loose ball to score and finally put the Gaijin on the board on the stroke of halftime. Toshi Miyano stepped up and nailed the conversion to make the score 14 v 7 to Waseda OB's. So a good chase made an ordinary kick look good (ala South African teams).
The Gaijin had played poorly in the first half and could consider themselves very lucky to be down by only a converted try. Too many passes had gone to ground and too many balls had been lost in the tackle. The amount of penalties against them in the ruck area was also of major concern. It was their good defence and a strong scrum that had kept them in the game so far but they would need to lift before they would inevitably tire late in the second half.
With promises to play with a little more passion and common sense, especially in the ruck area, to reduce the constant penalties, the Gaijin started the second half hoping for a bit of a break from the referee and a little more luck. But it was Waseda that looked like they were going to score first after a 70 metre run from deep within their own territory but Sam Deroeck saved the day with an excellent tackle that stopped the movement dead.
In the 48th minute the Gaijin showed some promise of what was to come when Toshi Miyano faked a kick from just outside his own try-line and dummied to one of his supporters and then handed the ball off to Ikuo Fukuda who went straight through a hole and made 40 metres upfield. Waseda, in their efforts to slow the ball down, were penalised for hands in the ruck and one of their players was yellow-carded and earned himself ten minutes in the sinbin.
This was the spark for a period of Gaijin domination as they took full adavantage of Waseda being a man down. In the 51st minute the Gaijin went very close to scoring but were stopped 5 metres out from the Waseda line after Toshi Miyano received the ball from a line-out, and deceived the defense with a few dummy passes to his supporting players.
The Gaijin were enjoying all the possession due to the one-man advantage but they were struggling to crack the Waseda defense as they were not missing any tackles.
In the 60th minute a strong Gaijin scrum led to a hurried ball being passed out to the Waseda backline. Under immense pressure the Waseda centre dropped the ball and Joe Nawaqavanua picked up the loose ball, crashed through a couple of tackles, and charged over the line to make the score 14 v 12. Miyano failed with the conversion but the Gaijin were back in the game at only two points down.
There followed a period of sloppy play with no advantages for either side as fatigue began to kick in. The Gaijin brought on Paulo de Berriozabal, Joffa Harris, Apisai Bati and Gareth Palmer in the forward pack to replace Takeshi Tanikawa, Joe Nawaqavanua, Shinichiro Nakayama and Richard O'Shea.
The infusion of fresh legs lifted the Gaijin and they were immediately on the front foot. After some sustained pressure and a strong run by Joffa Harris, Nik Pavesic was tackled just 5 metres out from the Waseda try-line. David Chan quickly got in at the back of the ruck, picked up the ball and crashed over. Miyano failed with the conversion but the Gaijin had finally hit the front 17 v 14.
From the ensuing kickoff Paulo de Berriozabal crashed the ball upfield, then Alistair Nimmo got a quick ruck ball away to Joffa Harris on a wide blind side. Harris made a 40 metre run fending off tacklers, which was followed by good forward interplay to get the Gaijin into the Waseda 22 metre area. From 10 metres out from the Waseda line the ball was spread from one corner of the pitch through the backs to Sam Deroeck on the other side of the field. Deroeck beat his man and raced over to score. With Miyano's successful conversion the Gaijin got out to a 24 v 14 lead.
Joffa Harris was making a huge impact off the bench for the Gaijin with a couple of searing runs and the other fresh forwards in Apisai Bati and Paulo de Berriozabal were adding some much needed go-forward. This ensured that Waseda spent most of the last 10 minutes of the match camped in their own 22 metre area.
In the 79th minute the Gaijin managed to go over for their 5th try of the match. A strong Gaijin scrum 5 metres out from the Waseda try-line forced a win against the head. Apisai Bati picked up the loose ball as it popped out on the Gaijin side of the scrum and charged at the line breaking through two tacklers to score. Miyano converted to make the final score 31 v 14.
Moments later the referee blew the whistle to signal full time and the Gaijin had won their way through to the semi-finals. The win was far from impressive but a big second half and an especially strong last 20 minutes had given them victory. The Gaijin had scored 31 unanswered points from just seconds before the halftime whistle.
Sam Deroeck was his usual self at fullback chiming into the line and constantly breaking the first and second tackles. Toshi Miyano tried hard to improve the impact of his fellow backs and Alistair Nimmo was a constant menace to the Waseda halfback and number 8 at scrum time. The rest of the backs did not have a happy day. The forwards were the difference between the two teams and the Gaijin pack held a definite advantage at scrum time. Their rucking was also strong but the TGRFC management would be concerned about the number of penalties given away at the ruck. The impact of the veterans Joffa Harris, Apisai Bati & Paulo de Berriozabal off the bench was the game clincher and they were all awarded the Man of the Match award for their game-changing efforts despite only playing about 20 minutes each.
Needless to say, Mosese Rarasea was awarded the Goat of the Game for forgetting the jerseys. One might argue that this contributed to the Gaijin's poor start but we will never know. His wife, who rushed to the field with the jerseys from Yokohama, probably deserves Man of the Match and the team thanks her very much for her efforts.
This is the first time in the 21 year history of the Tokyo Gaijin RFC that they have made the Tokyo Cup 1st Division semi-finals. Therefore, some might argue that this means this is the best team in the history of the Tokyo Gaijin, which is something that I am sure will be debated over beers over the next few weeks. If the team wishes to go futher than the semi-finals they will have to work on getting a bettter start and working out why the referees think they commit so many infringements at the breakdown .....as Tama Club are their opponents in the semi-final and they will not let the Gaijin back into the game after a poor start and certainly don't need any help from the referees.
SCORE : TGRFC 31 (Joe Nawaqavanua 2, David Chan 1, Sam Deroeck 1, Apisai Bati 1 tries; T. Miyano 3/5 conversions) Waseda OB's 14 (1 try; 0/1 conversions; 3/3 penalties)
Men of the Match : Joffa Harris, Apisai Bati, Paulo de Berriozabal
Goat of the Game: Mosese Rarasea (for forgetting the jerseys)
1. John Herger (USA)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. Tsukasa Takasugi (Japan)
4. Richard O'Shea (Wales)
5. Nik Pavesic (Croatia)
6. Joe Nawqavanua (Fiji)
7. Shinichiro Nakayama (vc) (Japan)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Alaister Nimmo (c) (England)
10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)
11. Bryan O'Brien (USA)
12. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
13. David Chan (Australia)
14. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
15. Sam Deroeck (England)
16. Koji Nishihara (Japan)
17. Chris Lucas (Australia)
18. Gareth Palmer (Wales)
19. Joffa Harris (Australia)
20. Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)
21. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
22. Apisai Bati (Fiji)