Dateline: 20th January, 2013

After almost two months with no rugby the members of the Tokyo Gaijin RFC must have been champing at the bit to get back into some rugby if the size of the squad assembled for the first fixture of 2013 was anything to go by. A squad of 29 players made their way out to Kawagoe on a chilly, windy Sunday to play against the Kawagoe Fighters in a 'Friendly' match. A big first half from the Tokyo Gaijin RFC was too much to overcome for the Kawagoe Fighters despite a strong second half fight-back. Joint top tryscorer for 2012, Sam Deroeck, got his year off to a good start scoring a hatrick in the first half.

The Kawagoe Fighters kicked off with a strong wind at their backs but the Tokyo Gaijin started the half on fire with Phillip Ferreira crashing the ball out of his 22 metre area and making some early ground. Mosese Rarasea continued the movement and went through a gap and Sam Dereock finished it all off by rounding the final defenders to score. So, at 1:17 on the clock the Gaijin were up 5 v 0. Rarasea converted the try and the Gaijin had a very early 7 v 0 lead.

Dereock was over again moments later after good quick rucking and a nice run by David Middleditch (Guesting for the team after 6 months back home in England) down the right flank put Dereock away for a 30 meter run to the tryline.  This had the Gaijin out to a 14 v 0 lead after 4 minutes following another successful conversion from Rarasea.

The Fighters made the most of a messed up kickoff and the Gaijin had to defend for the next 3 or 4 minutes until Kawagoe knocked the ball on under intense pressure fromt he defense. The Gaijin worked their way out of their half and into the kawagoe 22 metre area. At the 10 minute mark big Aussie prop Lachie Ainley took the ball flat-footed from a ruck feed but managed to shake off about 5 defenders as he twisted and swivelled his way through the Kawagoe forward pack and over the line in a good display of strength. Rarasea failed with the conversion leaving the score at 19 v 0.

The Gaijin failed to take thee kickoff cleanly again and Kawagoe looked to have a break-out but their ball carrier ran into touch on his way down the side line and the Gaijin kicked their way out of trouble from the line out win.

In the 17th minute Hitoshi Chihara broke through to score to the left of the posts after some quick penalty taps followed by quick ruck ball had the Kawagoe defence at sixes and sevens. Rarasesa converted to make the score 26 v 0.

Kawagoe went close to scoring next after their scrum wilted and was screwed under pressure, but their No.8 managed to  get the ball out and make a good break but winger Sam Dereock smashed him from behind just metres short of the try-line and saved what looked cretain to be Kawagoe's first points for the game. Unfortunately for the Gaijin, Hitoshi Chihara was penalised for entering the ruck from the side and the Gaijin had to defend on thier line for a little longer. the Gaijin managed to hold the Fighters out and next thing a break-out saw Sam Deroeck scoot away from the opposition on the halfway line to score near the posts, after easily rounding the fullback. Rarasea converted to make it a big 33 v 0 lead.

Kawagoe finally got some points after 5 consecutive minutes of attack and silly penalties against the Gaijin saw them break through for an easy try next to the posts, which was duly converted. They were finally on the board at 33 v 7.

The Gaijin quickly replied when blind-side winger Takeshi Kawai, who wasn't getting much action on his wing, inserted himself into set-piece play from a scrum and almost broke through. The ball was quickly recycled and Mosese Rarasea broke through to score and then converted his own try, making the half-time score 40 v 7.

The second half would be a completely different affair with the Gaijin making 10 changes, including the whole backline. Kawagoe would come out in the second half with more endeavor as well, as the first half was frankly a bit of an embarrassment for them.

The Gaijin knocked on the kickoff, the third one they had managed to mess up, but then got a penalty from the ensuing scrum.  A good run from Shinichiro Nakayama and then Motoki Mitsuyori got the Gaijin well into the Kawagoe half. After a series of rucks and pick and drives, prop John Herger was driven over to score. Junpei Shirakawa converted and the lead was now a demanding 47 v 7.

Kawagoe scored next when a loose pass from the Gaijin was picked up by the Kawagoe inside centre who went clean through the defense and then outpaced the fullback for a try in the left corner. A good conversion from out wide made the score 47 v 14.

The Gaijin then put the kickoff dead resulting in a scrum on halfway. They managed to win the ball back and soon after Ikuo Fukuda made a nice break from just inside his own half but was unceremoniously dumped by the fullback on the 22 metre line. After a few drives from rucks Nik Pavesic dived over the line to score his first of the match. Shirakawa converted and the lead was now a very handsome 54 v 14.

A series of mistakes from the Gaijin, with players getting a  bit greedy and then throwing silly passes too late, saw Kawagoe score next. a clearing kick was put over winger Ikuo Fukuda's head. After he raced back to retrieve thee ball he turned blind to see two players braething down his neck. He managed to wrong-foot them but then ran into a wall. The ball was lost and Kawagoe quickly moved it through the hands and scored in the left corner. The successful conversion made the score 54 v 21.

Kawagoe then staged a late fight-back when poor defense and some good offloading allowed them to score under the posts. With the successful conversion they had suddenly made the game a little more interesting at 54 v 28.

The Gaijin then spent a period on attack where they made some good breaks but last passes would go astray or ball-runners would ignore supporting players. They finally did convert this period of attack into points when the Gaijin scrum pushed their opposition off their own scrum feed. Joffa Harris broke off the back and after a series of pick and drives from rucks Nik Pavesic scored in the corner. Yamagen nailed a great conversion from touch to make the score 61 v 28.

Kawagoe would put the final points on the board, as the Gaijin defense began to lose its shape and missed tackles allowed Kawagoe to score in that left-hand corner again. The final conversion of the game was unsuccessful making the final result 61 v 33.

The game was played in two distictly different halves (you don't say?). In a big scoring match the Gaijin had completely dominated the first half despite running into a strong wind. The forwards worked well together and supported each other well, with Lachie Ainley being the pick of them and winning the Man of the Match award after some very strong runs and excellent scrummaging. Flankers Dave Kelver and Takeshi Ochiai, both not having played for many months, were surprisingly in good shape and were constantly in the thick of the action. The backs were well led by Mosese Rarasea and Phillip Ferreira who made numerous breaks from their bullocking runs, allowing Sam Dereock to cash in with three tries. Dave Middleditch, on a short visit back to Japan, was calm at the back and will go back to England happy that he didn't put a foot wrong.

Though the second half was fairly equal in terms of territory, with the Gaijin perhaps having a slight advantage, Kawagoe actually won the half on the scoreboard 26 v 21. While the Gaijin forward pack in the first half worked for each other and played it tight, the forwards in the second half were too loose and there was too much one-out running and then the ball would invariably be spilled or tossed away with a silly pass. The Gaijin didn't make Kawagoe tackle them and at times made the ball look like a hot potato and rarely forced Kawagoe into a rucking contest. The defense in the second half also fell away markedly.

Plaudits must go to the tight-five in both halves as the scrum was very strong throughout the match and forced many turnovers, resets and scrum penalties. With this dominance and a strong wind at their back the Gaijin should have done much better in the second half.

The Gaijin will need to work on their kickoffs as three receptions were spilled, one of their own kickoffs went dead and one didn't go the required ten metres.

One positve of the second half was the performance of new boy Motoki Mitsuyori, who had a strong game at blind-side flanker and shows a lot of promise. The kicking performance of the goal kickers must also be noted as the Gaijin often leave a lot of points on the field from failed conversions. Only one kick was missed all day (despite many conversions being kicked into a strong wind) for a total of 8 from 9 successes. Well done to those boys.

SCORE: TGRFC 61 ( Sam Dereock 3, Nik Pavesic 2, Lachlan Ainley 1, Hitoshi Chihara 1, Mosese Rarsea 1, John Herger 1 tries, M. Rarasea 5/6, J. Ishikawa 2/2, Yamagen 1/1 conversionos) Kawagoe Fighters 33 (5 tries, 4/5 conversions)

Man of the Match: Lachlan Ainley

TEAM:

1. Lachlan Ainley (Australia)

2. Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)

3. Takeshi Koba (Japan)

4. Richard O'Shea (Wales)

5. Jesse Takahashi (Japan)

6. Takeshi Ochiai (Japan)

7. Dave Kelver (USA)

8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)

9. Tomoya Nakagawa (Japan)

10. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)

11. Takeshi Kawai (Japan)

12. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)

13. Phillip Ferreira (South Africa)

14. Sam Deroeck (England)

15. Dave Middleditch (England)

Reserves used: John Herger (USA), Gorka Gerediaga (Basque), Nik Pavesic (Croatia), Motoki Mitsuyori (Japan), Shinichiro Nakayama (Japan), Joffa Harris (Australia), Ryogo Takemura (Japan), Max Manson (NZ), Touch Roy (Australia), Jo Iwasaki (Japan), Yamagen (Japan),  Ikuo Fukuda (Japan), Junpei Shirakawa (Japan), Tatsuma Mutou (Japan)