Dateline: January 27th, 2013
In a strong second half fightback the Tokyo Gaijin RFC beat Kurumi RFC 35 v 20 courtesy of 4 tries to Nikolai Pavesic. The Croatian forward had a storming game and was a standout for the Man of the Match award in a game where the Gaijin had to fight back from a 20 v 10 deficit.
The first half was a real 'to and fro' affair with the Gaijin stuck on the wrong game plan. Every time they got close to scoring the quick moving defense would force mistakes and the well-drilled Kurumi backline would click into action. Kurumi would go on to score 4 first half tries through better team-work and pacier outside backs.
It was the Gaijin who scored first in the game when fullback Masamichi Hagaki put Keita Akimoto, guesting from Lion RFC into a gap. He drew the last defender and put Nic Pavesic away in the corner for his first try. (There were no conversions in the game due to lack of netting around the ground and close apartments. Apparently the residents were not forewarned that there would be a game on the day so kicks at goal were off the agenda for the day). Score: 5 v 0 to the Gaijin.
Kurumi scored next to equalize when both Gaijin flankers bounced off their intended target and he raced through to score under the posts. Score: 5 v 5.
Kurumi should have scored soon after but a great tackle from behind saw their winger knock the ball on over the tryline. They did eventually break the dead-lock after yet another Gaijin mistake. Shinichiro Nakayama broke away from a line out and the move was carried on by Nik Pavesic and then Motoki Mitsuyori but unfortunately he tossed the ball out the back to a thankful Kurumi player and moments later they had moved 60 metres in the other direction and were streaking over the tryline in the right corner to extend their lead to 10 v 5.
The Gaijin bought it equal again soon after through Captain for the day, Shinichiro Nakayama. The leadup featured a nice passs from Hitoshi Chihara to Keita Akimoto, who put in a clever cross field kick whihc got the Gaijin deep into Kurumi territory. The Gaijin got the ball back through a knock-on and a few rucks later Nakayama busted through for equalizer.
From the kickoff, Kurumi went short to the blind and caught the unsuspecting Gaijin players napping. As Keita Akimoto went for the ball he was tackled and the ball went to ground. It was picked up by a Kurumi player and he raced away to score untouched in the left hand corner. The Gaijin players and fans were unhappy with the decision claiming that Akimoto was actually tackled before he had received the ball but the referee would have none of it and the decision stood. Score: 15 v 10 to Kurumi.
The Gaijin kicked off the second half with an entirely different game plan in mind with the aim being to keep it in the forwards. The first piece of nice play in the second half came when Keita Akimoto again put in a clever cross-field kick, which was taken by Junpei Shirakawa on the bounce. Unfortunately as he swerved his opposite number on his way to the tryline he put a foot in touch. The Gaijin managed to keep the presssure on and with some good pick and drives went close to scoring but the ball was lost in the melee and Kurumi managed to win their scrum and kick out of trouble.
Kurumi took adavantage of this let-off and quick hands and good work from their halfback, who was often in the thick of the action, saw them score in the corner to take a 20 v 10 lead.
It was now or never for the Gaijin and they decided to stick with their plan to play through their forwards. Good pick and drives saw the Gaijin gain good territory. Hitoshi Chihara went very close to scoring but was tackled just short. Patience saw Nic Pavesic peel off a scrum, fed by Kurumi who were then pushed off the ball, and go over to score. The Gaijin were back in the match but still down 20 v 15.
Loose forward Paulo de Berriozabal came on at this stage and made an instant impact. After a good charge up by a few forwards from the kickoff, the ball was spun wide out through the backs. De Berrizabal, lurking out wide on the right, made a strong charge down the side of the field knocking away a few tacklers then passing the ball back inside to Nic Pavesic who raced the last 40 metres to score under the posts, for his third try of the day. Scores were now even at 20 v 20.
The Gaijin were back over the tryline soon after with more concerted forward drives, followed by another clever Keita Akimoto kick for the corner. Nick Pavesic once again peeled off the back of the scrum and crashed through the opposition to score his fourth try and cap off a day to remember. The Gaijin had finally hit the front 25 v 20.
The Gaijin were now feeling confident and starting to get on top with a continuous forwards driving game and a lot more patience shown than in the first half. From the Kurumi 22 metre area centre Touch Roy, showing surprising pace, broke through and rounded the last defender to score next to the posts. Score: 30 v 20 to the Gaijin.
The Gaijin would score the final try and wrap up the game 3 minutes from the end when Paulo de Berriozabal made another strong run, this time down the left flank. After taking the tackle the ball was quickly recycled and quick hands fom Yamagen to Gorka Gerediaga to Hitoshi Chihara and finally on to Masamichi Hagaki, who scooted over in the right corner to make the final result 35 v 20.
The Gaijin were completely out-played in the first half, especially their backs. Admittedly, the usually reliable Mosese Rarasea was suffering from the effects of a heavy cold but the backline as a whole did not gel. Halves Tomoya and Junpei Shirakawa, playing his first game at standoff for the Gaijin, were struggling to read how the game was progressing and failed to direct play accordingly.
The second half from the Gaijin was much better, with the game plan to attack Kurumi at the fringes of the ruck and tire their forwards out, working to perfection. The Gaijin tight five also performed very well in scrums, gaining a few tight-heads, and generally tiring out their opponents. Locks Richard O'Shea and Jesse Takahashi worked hard all day with Takahashi pulling off some huge hits in defense, but the best of the best was Nic Pavesic who had a strong game, constantly breaking tackles and tirelessly hitting ruck after ruck. The 4 tries he scored for the match were well-deserved as was the Man of the Match award. Where's Croatia? It's on the Rugby map!
SCORE: TGRFC 35 (Nic Pavesic 4, Shinchiro Nakayama 1, Touch Roy 1, Masamichi Hagaki 1 tries) Kurumi RFC 20 (4 tries)
Man of the Match: Nic Pavesic
1. Lachlan Ainley (Australia)
2. Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)
3. John Herger (USA)
4. Richard O'Shea (Wales)
5. Jesse Takahashi (USA)
6. Motoki Mitsuyori (Japan)
7. Shinichiro Nakayama (Japan)
8. Nik Pavesic (Croatia)
9. Tomoya Nakagawa (Japan)
10. Junpei Shirakawa (Japan)
11. Keita Akimoto (Japan)
12. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
13. Phillip Ferreira (South Africa)
14. Wataru Sato (Japan)
15. Masamichi Hagaki (Japan)
Reserves used: Liam Ramshaw (England), Gorka Gerediaga (Basque), Gareth Palmer (Wales), Dave Kelver (USA), Daisuke (Japan), Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque), Ryogo Takemura (Japan), Hitoshi Chihara (Japan), Touch Roy (Australia), Roy (Australia), Yamagen (Japan)