THE THRILLER IN
THURSDAY 10 MARCH
During our flight to Manila (via Hong Kong) the Tokyo Gaijin RFC created a lot of attention by being fully dressed in the traditional touring style of zori (sandals), yukata (summer kimono), and chonmage (topknot). We also had our youngest member, Chris Lucas, in a Peka Chu jumpsuit!
We arrived at our hotel (The Citadel) in downtown
FRIDAY 11 MARCH
Friday was spent recovering at the luxurious Oakwood hotel (many thanks to Peter Lucas) and dining in
SATURDAY 12 MARCH
Turning up to the tournament venue (the Manila Nomads Country Club) at 8 o'clock in the morning, the Gaijin knew that the 28 teams had been divided into seven pools and that we were in Pool B with the Taipei Baboons, Hong Kong Football Club Scorpions, and Makati Chiefs. We would play a round-robin competition against these three teams and then, based on our results, we would be placed into one of the tournaments four levels (Cup, Plate, Bowl, Trophy) for the knockout stage on Sunday. Given that this was our first time in Manila and the fact that we'd heard rumors the level was fairly high, we set some cautious initial goals for ourselves: i.) Score a try; ii.) Win a match. We far exceeded them...
MATCH ONE: TGRFC 32 HKFC Scorpions 5
The Gaijin got their tour off to a flying start with a great performance against the Scorpions. Heats Devlin had a fantastic game, scoring five tries - an incredible achievement in a 12-minute match. With the forwards performing well as a unit and Ian 'The Shadow' Roy running things well out of fly half the Gaijin made our opponents look a lot more ordinary than they really were - the Scorpions ended up comfortably winning the Bowl section of the tournament the next day.
MATCH TWO: TGRFC 12
Chiefs 5 Makati
This could be classed as one of the Gaijin's infamous 'hard fought' wins. It's fair to say that we had more skill than our opposition, but as a local team playing their first ever match in the tournament they were incredibly fired up - the sight of seeing them come onto the field in full face-paint was a disconcerting sight and set the tone for a very physical match. The Gaijin scored first through a brilliant chip-and-chase try to Roy who unfortunately re-dislocated his troublesome right shoulder in the process meaning the Gaijin had to do without his services for the rest of the day. However, the backs really stepped up in
MATCH THREE: TGRFC 7
Baboons 19 Taipei
Going into our final match of Day One with an injury-depleted squad against a fresher opponent, the Gaijin knew this match was always going to be a difficult assignment. The Baboons ran up three tries before half time, giving them a virtually unassailable 19-0 lead. However, the Gaijin regrouped during the break and set ourselves the goal of scoring first in the second half. This was achieved in the last play of the match with a well-worked team try finished off by Blake ?Billy Bunter?
A recovery session in the pool was followed by another excellent dinner in the
SUNDAY 13 MARCH
MATCH FOUR - PLATE QUARTER-FINAL: TGRFC 5 Pot-Bellied Pigs 0
Another hard fought win by the Gaijin, this match was incredibly satisfying because of the heart shown by the team in holding onto our one-try lead for virtually the entire match. Fired up by the first performance of our pre-match 'Strong Position' war dance, the Gaijin started the match very well. We should have scored in the opening 30 seconds after our 'switch' kick-off caught the opposition unawares and Joe ?Raging Bull? Fisher was able to recover the ball. However, on this occasion Blake Walker's hands let him down. Making up for his error though, Walker scored what ended up being the match winning try a minute later after being set up by another 'angry' Fisher run which caused one discarded Pot Bellied Pig to make a hasty retreat to the sideline where he promptly managed to say goodbye to his breakfast. Fisher was pleased to hear this afterwards as he felt it vindicated his 'Don't drink the night before' stance he's been (unsuccessfully) trying to drum into the Gaijin for the past two years. The rest of the match comprised of excellent Gaijin defence - led by midfield general Niall 'Niggles' Conlon - and promising but ultimately unsuccessful Gaijin attack. In a great team effort, Fisher and Chris 'Peka Chu' Lucas were prominent.
MATCH FIVE - PLATE SEMI-FINAL: TGRFC 0 Malaysian Flying Elvis's 45
Beaten by a very good team in this semi-final, the Gaijin never gave up and managed to regroup and put together a vastly improved second-half after finding themselves down 38-0 at half time. As was the case with the match against the Taipei Baboons, the Gaijin found that good opponents could stretch their attack wide very quickly, exploiting the Gaijin's relative lack of pack and inexperience in 10's rugby. The front-row of Mark Pearson, 'Gorgeous' Steve Bull, and Takayuki Kitajima performed very strongly however, winning a tight head and generally causing the Elvis's a lot of trouble at scrum-time.
Later at the awards ceremony, the team was given the coveted 'Most Festive Team' award - great recognition for our efforts on and off the field over the weekend. Joe Fisher performed an impromptu 'Strong Position' war dance on stage after receiving the award from former All Black Bernie Fraser.
After this, club icon Joffa Harris presided over a team court session and details of all which followed are more than a little hazy...
All-in-all a very successful tournament for the Gaijin. The team can be very proud of their efforts - Three wins against two losses, Plate semi-finalists and the prized ?Most Festive Team? award. We had the smallest squad of any team at the tournament but yet we were one of the very few not to borrow players from other teams because we wanted to achieve everything as the Tokyo Gaijin RFC, not as some put-together mix-and-match team. This kind of spirit defines this team and I can only hope it will continue to serve us well in the future.
Finally, many thanks to the Manila Nomads for inviting us and to Peter Lucas for all his on-field and off-field assistance during the tournament.