Dateline: March 3rd, 2013
After a poor result in their last game, failing to even get to base camp of the mountain that was Komaba WMM, the Tokyo Gaijin RFC gathered at Yanokuchi with redemption on their mind. A big squad of 28 players was keen to show that their last loss, a big one, had been an anomoly. Fuji Club was to be the fodder for a team keen to make amends. Within the Gaijin squad were three debutantes in English lock Andy Tinall, Japanese hooker Takamitsu Sakai, and American Ian Munkacsy playing in his first game of rugby. The Gaijin were also very pleased to have Kiwi dynamo Matt Downer back after a year away from rugby.
The Gaijin immediately signaled their intent with a perfect kickoff putting pressure on the Fuji forwards and causing a knock-on which was gathered in by the Gaijin and immediately resulted in John Herger going on a storming run deep into enemy territory before being tackled by the last line of defense. Fellow prop Lachie Ainley came away from the ruck with a big charge but his support players were too slow to the ruck and the ball was turned over by the Fuji players. The two props working in tandem was to be a highlight of this game.
The Gaijin didn't take long to score though as some good crash balls and nice feeding of the ball by standoff Hitoshi Chihara saw the Gaijin forwards rumble towards the try line and Mitoki Mitsuyori dropped off the back of the maul to score his first try for the Gaijin. Mosese Rarasea converted the kick from midway between goals and right side line and the Gaijin were out to an early 7 v 0 lead.
The kickoff didn't go the required 10 metres and the Fuji RFC would soon pay for this costly mistake. Nik Pavesic made a good run from the back of the resulting scrum and fed the ball off to John Herger (How the hell did he get out of that scrum so quickly?) who made a further 25 metres knocking defenders out of the way. Phillip Ferreira was almost the recipient of all this good work but he was caught agonisingly short of the line. Mosese Rarasea was the first Gaijin player on the spot and picked the ball up and flopped over midway between posts and the left touch line. He couldn't add the extras though and the Gaijin now led 12 v 0.
The Gaijin failed to secure the kickoff and Fuji Club were looking dangerous for the first time in the match. A loose ball near the Gaijin 22 metre area was toed ahead by one of the Fuji Club outside backs but Gaijin winger Bryan O'Brien motored after it in a race for the ball and managed to get a boot to it and kick it over the dead ball line, as the Fuji chaser dived for it over the line. Try saver! Good defense from the scrum caused a poor pass and Lachlan Ainley made good yards to get the Gaijin out of the danger zone.
Nic Pavesic took the ball one off a ruck soon after and beat 3 tacklers in a bullocking charge to score 10 metres in from the left touch line. Rarasea could not add the extras but it was still a handy lead of 17 v 0.
Once again the Fuji kickoff did not go 10 metres and the Gaijin would make them pay for their mistake getting deep into their half. It was at this stage around the 20 minute mark, that Liam Ramshaw took a heavy knock in a strong tackle (perhaps he was carrying the ball a bit high??) and Takamitsu Sakai came on for his first game for the Tokyo Gaijin RFC. With his first touch he came off the back of a ruck deep in the Fuji 22 metre area and pushed through 2 defenders to score. Rarasea converted to make the score 24 v 0.
From a very nice kickoff this time Fuji Club got the ball back after no Gaijin player claimed it and a missed tackle from Rarasea saw Fuji spread it wide but good cover defense saved a try.
Fuji finally did get some points on the board when they spun the ball wide from a scrum 15 metres inside the Gaijin half and a with the help of a few Gaijin backs missing their tackles, they were able to score in the corner. They failed with the wide connversion leaving the score at 24 v 5.
From the kickoff the Gaijin managed to get the ball back and a fantastic drive from Nik Pavesic, Richard O'Shea and Lachie Ainley saw the defending forwards scattered and Pavesic fought his way through the last defenders and ran around to score near the posts. Rarasea converted and the lead was now a convincing 31 v 5 to the Gaijin.
Just before halftime, the Gaijin added more points when Mosese Rarasea exploded through the defense from a line-out 30 metres out from the Fuji line and rounded the cover defense to score under the posts. Pavesic failed with the conversion but the was now 36 v 5.
The Gaijin carried on in the same vein straight from the kickoff when they moved from their own 22 metre line to their opposition's. It started with Pavesic ripping the ball off the opposition, passing onto John Herger, who charged upfield, then Alaister Nimmo made more ground. The ball was quickly recycled after Nimmo was tackled and Junpei Shirakawa scored on the opposite side in the corner. Shirakawa failed to convert his own try but the Gaijin would go into the half time break with a handy 41 v 5 lead.
Quite a few changes were made at half time or soon after and the fluency of the Gaijin play suffered. It was to be another 10 minutes before the scoreboard changed. Apisai Bati made a break, and then after a nice interchange with Jo Iwasaki, the ball went to Hitoshi Chihara who went over the tryline to score. Junpei Shirakawa converted and the Gaijin now had a big 48 v 5 lead.
Natsu Kunitomo muffed the kickoff and Fuji Club spun the ball wide after a couple of rucks. Junpei Shirakawa fell off the last tackle and Fuji scored. They converted to add some respectability to the score which now stood at 48 v 12.
The next piece of good play came from replacement flanker Paulo de Berriozabal. After a deep kick into Gaijin territory de Berriozabal, covering at the back, threw a lineout to himself and made 40 metres upfield through the oncoming traffic. as the Gaijin got deeper into the Fuji 22 metre area, Apisai Bati had a lunge at the line but desperate defense held him out. Takamitsu Sakai followed up with a lunge of his own to score his second try of the match on debut for the Tokyo Gaijin RFC. Bati missed with the conversion. Score 53 v 12.
Soon after, a line-out to Fuji just inside their half was not well-controlled. The ball bounced over a few sets of hands and Gaijin halfback Tatsuma Mutou was able to tap the ball onto a flying Hitoshi Chihara who went straight through the defensive line and easily rounded the fullback to score. Bati failed with the conversion. Score 58 v 12.
The Fuji Club would finish the scoring but it was all too little too late. After some concerted late pressureGaijin standoff Chihara fell for a dummy out in front of the posts and just inside the Gaijin 22 metre area and the Fuji standoff strolled over the line untouched. The conversion made the final result 58 v 19.
The Gaijin forward pack were too much for the Fuji pack for most of the game with superior rucking and scrummaging. Their support play was also very good. Props John Herger, the eventual Man of the Match, and Lachie Ainley, had powerful games and were well supported by No.8 Nic Pavesic. In the backs Mosese Rarasea showed some flashes of brilliance. While play degenerated in the second half there were some good runs from Apisai Bati and Paulo de Berriozabal but there was too much one off stuff during the second half.
SCORE : TGRFC 58 (Nic Pavesic 2, Takamitsu Sakai 2, Mosese Rarasea 2, Hitoshi Chihara 2, Motoki Mitsuyori 1, Junpei Shirakawa 1 tries, M. Rarsea 3/5, N. Pavesic 0/1, J. Shirakawa 1/2, A. Bati 0/2 conversions) Fuji RFC 19 (3 tries, 2/3 conversions)
Man of the Match: John Herger (USA)
Debutantes: Takamitsu Sakai, Andy Tindall, Ian Munkacsy
1. Lachlan Ainley (Australia)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. John Herger (USA)
4. Richard O'Shea (c) (Wales)
5. Andy Tindall (England)
6. Motoki Mitsuyori (Japan)
7. Shinichiro Nakayama (vc) (Japan)
8. Nic Pavesic (Croatia)
9. Tatsuma Mutou (Japan)
10. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
11. Bryan O'Brien (USA)
12. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
13. Phillip Ferreira (South Africa)
14. Alaister Nimmo (England)
15. Junpei Shirakawa (Japan)
Reserves used: Takeshi Koba (Japan), Gorka Gerediaga (Basque), Takamitsu Sakai (Japan), Natsu Kunitomo (Japan), John Simpson (USA), Takeshi Ochiai (Japan), Takashi Tanikawa (Japan), Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque), Ikuo Fukuda (Japan), Matt Downer (NZ), Jo Iwasaki (Japan), Apisai Bati (Fiji), Ian Munkacsy (USA)