Dateline: June 24th, 2012
With the Tokyo Cup over for 2012 the Tokyo Gaijin RFC organized a few 'friendlies' to get more game time for some of their fringe players and to give new guys a run out before the summer break over August. First cab off the rank was a young Sofia University side of which the team knew very little about. Like most University teams in Japan the TGRFC knew they would be well-drilled and fit and fast. The Gaijin squad was a mixture of experience and the raw. In a game littered with mistakes the Sofia University side didn't disappoint and saw the Gaijin fail to get on top of a much younger, fitter and faster University team.The opening two minutes were a good example of what was to come as the Gaijin were forced into error with the usually reliable Touch Roy responsible for two mistakes - a forward pass and a dropped ball. The first 10 minutes was spent in the Gaijin half as they struggled to get any forward momentum. The Gaijin's defense was good, more out of necessity than anything else, as they gave away possession too easily.
In fact, both teams were guilty of easy turn-over ball but the Gaijin made more and were made to pay and became flustered with the superioir fitness and endeavor of the 'youngsters'.
Sofia only led 12 v 7 at the halftime break having scored two tries to one. Both the Sofia University tries came from Gaijin mistakes with the first try gifted to them when Toshi Miyano passed the ball to a lazySofia runner in the Gaijin backline who turned and sprinted away to score. The other try was presented to them by Gaijin centre David Chan who spilt a 'sitter' and his opponent picked up the crumbs and raced 40 metres to score untouched.
The Gaijin on the other hand had to work hard for their try. They created many opportunites and were a constant threat out wide but their inability to make the final pass stick or to take the tackle and reset for the following phase made it easy for the Sofia team to regather and shut down any Gaijin chances.
It took some clever play from Toshi Miyano to get the Gaijin over the line. He chipped ahead and Hitoshi Chihara got to the ball first on the bounce and big John Herger ran onto the pass and made a good 20 metre run with tacklers hanging off him. Sam Deroeck received the ball from the back of the ruck, beat a few tackles, and then slipped the ball to Chihara who rounded the posts to score. Toshi Miyano got the two extra points and the Gaijin had drawn equal at 7 v 7.
But then Gaijin centre David Chan presented them with another try when he spilt a sitter and his opponent picked up the ball and ran 45 metres to score which allowed Sofia to go into the half-time break up 12 v 7 without having really done that much to deserve it.
At halftime the Gaijin to a man thought that they were still well and truly in the game and just needed to tighten up their attack in close and the breaks outside would continue. Handling also had to improve and the game would be theirs.
Touch Roy, making up for his earlier mistkes, finished the half strongly with some bullocking runs. David Chan also tried to make up for his assist in his opponents first try with some strong charges into the defense and Sam deroeck tackled his heart out with some stinging hits in defense.
Despite an anticipated turn-around the Sofia team ran away with the match in the second half as the Gaijin play degenereated into a mistake-athon. Sofia managed to score 4 more tries with the Gaijin defense falling off tackles and a continuation of the poor handling of the first half.
The Gaijin got one try but it was probably more due to good luck than brilliant play as Shinchiro Nakayama managed to kick ahead a dropped ball and won the race to it to dive over the line.
For the Gaijin, the ability to break the line and get in behind the defense was not a problem. The ability to capitalize on their opportunities was the major concern with the Sofia defense managing to get across and shut down each break due to poor option taking or to a lack of support runners for the Gaijin.
For the Gaijin prop John Herger worked hard all day. Sam Dereock was savage in defense but his usual strong running game was kept in check through equally good defense. He made numerous half-breaks but was guilty of trying to do too much and sometimes his last pass, under pressure, went to ground when it should have been given to the supporting player earlier. At one stage Deroeck smashed a winger into touch as he passed the ball back inside and then got up and raced across the field to make another monster tackle on the next ball carrier in the midfield who thought he was away to score. Nik Paveisc was also a standout but was also guilty of trying to do too much individually when more of a team effort was called for. Takeshi Ochiai was eventual Man of the Match as he made some excellent breaks, good ruck work and was one of the few to make no mistakes.
Sofia University were well drilled as expected and worked very well as a team which is something that the Gaijin need to take more note of as their efforts were far too individualistic. It brings to mind the old cliche 'A champion team will always beat a team of champions' (or even a team that think they are). That and the fact that a few of the Gaijin players could have been mates with the Sofia players dads. Too young, fit and fast in the end.
SCORE: Sofia University 40 (6 tries, 5/6 conversions) TGRFC 12 (Hitoshi Chihara 1, Shinichiro Nakayama 1 tries; Toshi Miyano 1/2 goals)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Takeshi Ochiaia
Goat(s) of the Match: Yamagen & David Chan
1. John Herger (USA)
2. Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)
3. Natsu Kunitomo (Japan)
4. Gareth Palmer (Wales)
5. Nik Pavesic (Croatia)
6. Takeshi Ochiai (Japan)
7. Sam Deroeck (England)
8. Takeshi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Ryogo Takemura (Japan)
10. Toshi Miyano (c) (Japan)
11. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
12. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
13. Touch Roy (Australia)
14. David Chan (Australia)
15. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
Reserves used: Liam Ramshaw (England), Shinichiro Nakayama (vc) (Japan), Shinya (Japan), Toso (Japan), Mosese Rarasea (Fiji), Yoshihiro Sato (Japan), Yamagen (Japan)