After a night of torrential rain the the Tokyo Gaijin RFC turned up at Yanokuchi Field to find a big pool of water in one half of the field. With their opposition, a composite team of Goddamns and Kichioji Wild Turkeys players (we'll call them Goddamn Wild Turkeys or Turkeys for short), they spent the next hour trying to drain the pool with spades, buckets and rakes to make it a little more playable. The Gaijin ended up beating their opposition 45 v 7 but not before a terrible first half of rugby in which they only led 10 v 0 at halftime.
As the game was just a 'friendly' with no competition points on offer, the Gaijin experimented a bit with some positional changes. In the forwards, tall fullback Iferemi 'Alfie' Baros moved into lock, and regular vice captain Shinichiro Nakayama started from the bench. In the backs fullback Yamagen and regular loose forward Joffa Harris started in the halves. These experiments, along with the slippery conditions, may have contributed to the lack of fluency and poise in the Gaijin play. The usual dominant Gaijin scrum was also under immense pressure with sloppy ball coming to halfback Yamagen and the scrum being wheeled and even sent backwards at times. The Gaijin struggled in their own half, the muddy half, for long periods of the first half and could consider themselves very lucky not to give up any points with some last ditch defense saving a few tries.
First half tries to Joe Nawaqavanua and John Simpson saw the Gaijin lead 10 v 0 at the break but they squandered many chances with both Joe Nawaqavanua and Mosese Rarasea dropping passes on their way to the tryline. Nawaqavanua's try was all about power as he smashed through a few defenders and Simpson showed surprising pace to run into a hole and finish with a 20 metre run to outpace his chasers. Yamagen failed to convert both tries.
At half time Yamagen was replaced by Tatsuma Mutou, and Bryan O'Brien and Yoshihiro Sato came on for wingers Ikuo Fukuda and Jo Iwasaki. The Gaijin would also have the benefit of the strong wind in this half.
The second half started just as badly for the Gaijin, though, with some fundamental errors but they made up for this with some good forward charges. But then another error led to them going from potential scorers to having a try scored against them. With the Gaijin on the attack deep within the Turkeys 22 metre area the ball was lost and the Turkeys pumped a kick out to the wing. Yoshihiro Sato got under it and wasn't under much pressure but he dropped the ball. It was picked up by a chaser who passed it off to a supporter as he was tackled. This process was repeated again until there were no more defenders left and the player raced away to score under the posts. The conversion was successful and it was game on at 10 v 7 to the Gaijin.
The introduction of Shinichiro Nakagawa to the game coincided with a much more confident approach from the Gaijin as the passes started to stick and the defense tired. First it was big Joe Nawaqavanua powering over again after shoving off would-be tacklers with some big charges and then a series of offloads and pop-passes from the ground and good support play saw Junpei Shirakawa throw the last pass to Gareth Palmer who dived over the line. Both tries were scored to the left of the posts and with the wind coming in directly behind him Mosese Rarasea made no mistake with both conversions.
It was at this stage of the game that the Gaijin lost John Simpson to knee trouble. This required a bit of a reshuffle with Palmer moving to lock and Joffa Harris moving from standoff to flanker. Jun Shirakawa moved to standoff from fullback which was filled in by Jo Iwasaki.
The Gaijin continued with the improved form and finished the half with a flurry of tries. The first went to Jun Shirakawa after he found a big hole up the centre of the field after a big side-step and he raced 25 metres to score. The second went to Shinichiro Nakayama who similarly found himself in a gaping hole after running a beautiful line and he ran 20 metres to score. The last try of the game went to Aisea Kaloumaira who cut back in, in the opposite direction of play, wrong-footed the defense and raced the last 20 metres to score. All tries were to the left of the posts and Mosese Rarasea was once again successful with all the conversions to finish with a rare 100% kicking record.
It wasn't a pretty win for the Gaijin but their opposition never really looked like getting on top, with both sides making a lot of mistakes and the Gaijin getting heavily penalised at times, especially for not releasing the ball in the ruck or not coming through the gate. Thankfully the constant fumbling of the ball in the first 40 minutes was replaced by much better rugby in the last stanza of the game. The Gaijin scrum, which has seriously crushed some opposition teams of late, met its match and was slightly overshadowed; though they were missing one of their bookends in John Herger and were missing a few experienced locks. The power of the forwards in general play was what set up the victory. The backs never really set the game on fire but had limited opportunities.
SCORE: TGRFC 45 (J. Nawaqavanua 2, J. Simpson 1, G. Palmer 1, J. Shirakawa 1, S. Nakayama 1, A. Kaloumaira 1 tries. Yamagen 0/2, M. Rarasea 5/5 conversions) Goddamn Wild Turkeys 7 (1 try, 1 conversion)
Man of the Match: Joe Nawaqavanua
1. Lachlan Ainsley (Australia)
2. Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)
3. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
4. Iferemi Baros (Fiji)
5. John Simpson (USA)
6. Joe Nawaqavanua (Fiji)
7. Gareth Palmer (Wales)
8. Apisai Bati (Fiji)
9. Akira Yamagen (Japan)
10. Joffa Harris (c) (Australia)
11. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
12. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
13. Aisea Kaloumaira (Fiji)
14. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
15. Junpei Ishikawa (Japan)
Reserves used: Shinchiro Nakayama (vc) (Japan), Tatsuma Mutou (Japan), Bryan O'Brien (USA), Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)