Dateline: 22nd September, 2012
Your mission Ikuo Fukuda, if you choose to accept, is to get at least 30 players to go on a bus tour to Yamansahi Prefecture to play a double-header against two local clubs. Well Ikuo accepted but this part of the mission seemed an impossibilty with many team members seemingly busy with other things on this particular weekend. In fact the day started with miserable weather and heavy rain which caused 5 drop-outs on the morninig of the tour, something that must have given Ikuo grey hairs as that meant the team was now down to 16 players. What's more Natsu Kunitomo had just woken up and it was past departure time. At least he didn't let the team down and got on a train and got himself out to Yamanashi on time. So that part of the Ikuo's mission was not accomplished.
The bus trip out to Yamanshi was a pretty staid affair with the rain coming down in buckets most of the way and a huge traffic jam just outside Tokyo that put us an hour behind schedule. The boys settled down to chat, sleep or to watch the only English DVD on the bus: Mission Impossible 2 - not quite the title we wanted to see after the morning hadn't started so well, but the only choice. Once we passed the culprits of the traffic jam, a Porshce and a Ferrari that had had a tangle, it was smooth sailing from there.
The team reached Midai Minami Park in Minami Alps City, not too far from Kofu I believe, around midday and were happy to see that Natsu had made it and that Jo Iwasaki and Hitoshi Chihara had got there by car without tangling with any Porsches or Ferraris so we still had 16 players. One of the opposition teams (Ashitaka RFC) was also a little short on numbers so it was decided to have a three-way competition with each team playing a half against each other instead of full matches.
The two fields at Midai Minami Park were covered with lush green grass which had the players salivating as it is a rarity in Tokyo. The opposition in the first half was to be Daen RFC, the local club, and then the Gaijin would play Ashitaka Spirits RFC, who drove a couple of hours from Numazu to partake in the three-way competition. And then Daen RFC would play Ashitaka RFC. Last year the same three teams gathered in Numazu for the first time in what is hoped will continue to be a looked-forward to event on the rugby calendar. The Gaijin had taken the victory spoils last year and were hoping for a repeat.
The Gaijin got off to a bad start when the Daen RFC managed to take the kickoff, spin the ball wide, and find gaps through the Gaijin backline. They made it all the way down to the Gaijin 22 metre area in one sweeping move. The Gaijin recovered, with the help of their powerful scrum and soon had the first points on the board. It came when Toshi Miyano spotted Joffa Harris on a wrap-around down the blind. As the cover defenders came across Joffa chipped over them into the in-goal area and Hitoshi Chihara raced through to dive on the ball. Yamagen couldn't convert so five minutes in and the Gaijin were out in front 5 v 0.
Joffa was also involved in the next try as he received a pass along the ground out on the other side of the field this time. He cut back in towards the forwards as the opposition came across in defense, found a hole next to the ruck and raced through it. As he came to the fullback he found Richard O'Shea in support on the inside. O'Shea made some metres upfield and just as he was about to get tackled by the winger he gave a well timed pass back outside to prop Lachlan Ainsley who showed surprising pace to race the last 20 metres to score next to the posts. Rarasea converted and the Gaijin now had a handy lead of 12 v 0.
The next try also went to the Gaijin as Gorka Gerediaga chipped over the oncoming defense as he raced away from the scrum. Touch Roy won the race to the ball to score.and the Gaijin led 17 v 0 aftre Rarasea missed with the conversion.
As the half time whistle approached the Gaijin play got rather sloppy. Admittedly the wet conditions were not exactly conducive to free-flowing rugby but the mistakes were coming thick and fast and the players at times looked like chickens with their heads cut off. Daen RFC finally got on the board before the half was over after sloppy play by the Gaijin and some poor defense close to the ruck. They converted to make the score 17 v 7 and that was the game....or at least the half that these two teams would play against each other.
The scrum had been immense for the Gaijin and saved them some embarrassment. In fact there wasn't a single scrum that Daen didn't find themselves going backwards at a great rate of knots. Kudos to Lachlan Ainsley and John Herger in the front row and excellent striking from Gaz Dalrymple at hooker saw many turn-over balls for the Gaijin. Locks Richard O'Shea and Natsu Kunitomo also played their part well. And with Takeshi Ochiai doing a good job jumping in the lineout the Gaijin were able to get back a lot of the ball they easily gave away due to sloppy handling or brain-explosions.
The backs were having a hard day of it, especially the back three, with balls skidding and bouncing unpredictably in the wet and greasy conditions.
The second half was against Ashitaka RFC and they commited a 'dog act' before the half had started by claiming that their front row were not all props, despite looking pretty big chunky fellas to all and sundry, and asking for 'No push' scrums. They had obviously seen the Gaijin props destroy the Daen RFC props and decided they would take the Gaijin's strength out of the game. With the referee being a local and all for the move there was nothing that could be done but to give into their wishes.
The half started superbly for the Gaijin when all the forwards led by winger Bryan O'Brien chased the kickoff hard. Ashitaka cleared the ball down to the sideline. Joffa Harris, who had waited back in defense on O'Brien's wing, took the ball on the bounce and charged straight into the oncoming defenders. The Gaijin forwards quickly formed a ruck around him and a quick recycle saw Hitoshi Chihara break through and race away to score. So the second half was off to a bright start at 5 v 0 after Rarasea missed the conversion.
Then the Gaijin began to rest on their laurels a bit and Ashitaka Spirits RFC took full advantage. It started when Gorka Gerediaga took the kickoff and then proceeded to run backwards to try and outflank the opposition. He was caught however, just in front of his posts, and the scrum was awarded to Ashitaka as the ball was not coming out and they were going forward.
The following 10 minutes saw then score two 'soft' tries and they skipped out to a 12 v 0 lead.
Mosese Rarasea brought the Gaijin back into the game when he crashed through two tacklers to go over between the posts after the forwards had made numerous charges at the line and recycled the ball well to continue doing so. Hitoshi Chihara embarrassed himself by missing thee conversion in front to leave the Gaijin narrowly behind at 12 v 10.
The Gaijin clinched the lead some 10 minutes before full time when Lachie Ainsley took the ball from a quick tap and crashed through the defensive wall to score a good prop's try. Rarasea converted to make the score 17 v 12 to the Gaijin.
The Gaijin spent the last 10 minutes fumbling around making way too many mistakes but clinched a penalty about 30 metres out in front of the posts with a minute left and captain Richard O'Shea thought it wise to sow up the game and go for the points. Rarasea answered his captain's call with a successful conversion and then the game was over. A 20 v 12 victory to the Gaijin. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
The tight five had been the catalysts for the win and none were better than props Lachlan Ainsley and John Herger. Ainsley pipped Herger for Man of the Match courtesy of his two tries. Gorka Gerediaga was awarded Goat of the Game for running 20 metres backwards with the ball from a kickoff. Though he had had quite a few strong runs he was perhaps a bit guilty of over-using the chip-kick and also had a case of 'droppsies' at the base of the scrum knocking on 3 or 4 balls and wasting possession.
In the backs Toshi Miyano was a cool head and Mosese Rarasea made quite a few crunching tackles on his opposite number to dislodge the ball on 3 or 4 occassions. The experienced Hitoshi Chihara seemed to be trying to do too much and did not have a happy game and was guilty of a couple of brain-explosions such as throwing the ball into touch when running from the base of the scrum just after the captain had just pleaded with everyone to minimise the silly mistakes. He did make up for it with great support play and two tries.
After the game, the boys went off to an onsen to soak their bruised bodies in the warm water and then enjoyed beers and finger food put on by the Daen Club. The opposition boys were a great bunch and provided a lot of laughs.
At the first beer stop on the way home Natsu Kunitomo decided that he would be the Keeper of the Wine gifted to the team by the Daen Club. As he was walking towards the convenience store the bag gave way and 2 litres of wine hit the pavement and dribbled away. Beers would have to do as the boys would not be savouring the wine of victory tonight. While it was not Natsu's fault that the bag broke, one wonders why the heck he even took it off the bus in the first place. Was he taking it for a walk into the conbini? Did he not trust the boys while he was away? Due to this little episode and the fact that he missed the morning bus he was awarded the Goat of the Tour and sculled a beer along with Man of the Match Lachlan Ainsley and Goat of the Game Gorka Gerediaga. He was also ordered to sing the first song (there was no Karaoke machine). He made up for his indiscretions with a fine rendition of 'Hey Jude'. There followed some more songs including a fine rendition of 'Delilah' by our own Welsh tenor and then some ribald rugby songs led by the two props. There were no traffic problems on the way back and everything went smoothly, except for Gaz having to tie his member in knots due to bladder problems and excess beer consumption.
A big thanks to Ikuo Fukuda for his tireless work in arranging the tour and also to Shino Iwasaki and Hitomi O'Shea for being watergirls and medics in the rain. And of course to our opposition Daen RFC and Ashitaka Spirits RFC.
Game 1 : TGRFC 17 (Hitoshi Chihara 1, Lachlan Ainsley 1, Touch Roy 1 tries; Yamagen 0/1, M. Rarasea 1/2 conversions) Daen RFC 7 (1 try; 1/1 conversions)
Game 2: TGRFC 20 (Hitoshi Chihara 1, Mosese Rarasea 1, Lachlan Ainsley 1 tries; H. Chihara 0/1, M. Rarasea 1/2 conversions, 1/1 penalties) Ashitaka Spirits RFC 12 (2 tries; 1/2 conversions)
Man of the Match: Lachlan Ainsley
Goat of the Game: Gorka Gerediaga
Goat of the Tour: Natsu Kunitomo
1. Lachlan Ainsley (Australia)
2. Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)
3. John Herger (USA)
4. Richard O'Shea (c) (Wales)
5. Natsu Kunitomo (Japan)
6. Joffa Harris (Australia)
7. Takeshi Ochiai (Japan)
8. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
9. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
10. Toashi Miyano (Japan)
11. Bryan O'Brien (USA)
12. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
13. Touch Roy (Australia)
14. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
15. Yamagen (Japan)
16. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)