Dateline: 23rd March, 2013
The Tokyo Gaijin RFC gathered way out in Chiharadai, out in woop-woop Chiba, to play the Chiba Barbarians for the first time ever. The Chiba Barbarians are the strongest amateur team in Chiba prefecture and the TGRFC were using the game as a level-appropriate warm-up for the upcoming Tokyo Cup First Division. It would also herald the Tokyo Gaijin debut for new prop Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka
The Gaijin got off to a strong start and looked like they would cruise to a win if early indications of how the match was playing out were to be believed. First impressions can be very deceptive though and the Chiba Barbarians would soon get over their rusty start and cruise to an easy win themselves.
From the kickoff by the Gaijin, Nik Pavesic tapped the ball back and the Gaijin took early control. Aisea Kaloumaira made a good run and then a loose pass was kicked ahead by Mosese Rarasea. From the ensuing lineout the Gaijin got their first penalty, and the game hadn't even been going one minute. The Gaijin failed to make any impression with the penalty as they were guilty of not keeping the ball and the Barbarians were very quick to the rucks.
A good run by Aussie centre Touch Roy saw the ball quickly recycled and Takeshi Kawai heading for the try line. He was caught metres short by the cover defense but consistent rucking and mauling saw No.8 Takashi Tanikawa barge over next to the posts from the back of a ruck. Mosese Rarasea converted to have the Gaijin out to an early 7 v 0 lead.
Thus far, the Gaijin had made all the running and it seemed like they were a class above the Chiba Barbarians. This soon changed though and it all started with a poor kick off reception after a mix up between Gorka Gerediaga and Liam Ramshaw in the Gaijin forwards. It was followed up by another piece of exceptionally poor play when Joe Nawaqavanua made a 40 metre charge upfield. As he came to the last line of defense in the Barbarian winger, perhaps half of Joe's 130 kg, he was more intent on barging his way over the top than ball control and unexplicably had the ball ripped from his hands in the tackle. The constant mistakes must have given the Barbarians a confidence boost as they began to make the Gaijin pay for their 'school boy errors'.
A lucky bounce form a kick on halfway saw the Barbarian winger on the other side of the field regather and pass the ball in the tackle to a support player who raced away untouched to score. The conversion was unsuccessful but the game was back in the balance at 7 v 5 to the Gaijin.
But 5 minutes later a loose pass saw the same right winger streak away to score out on the right. Once again the conversion was unsuccessful but the Barbarians had now hit the lead at 10 v 5.
The Gaijin stopped the one way traffic momentarily when Nik Pavesic made a big run after newcomer Tsunaaki Tanaka smashed the receiver of the kickoff. But once again pooor handling and loose passes would see the Gaijin suffer when one of the Barbarian outside backs raced away to score out on the right from well inside his own half. They failed to convert once again but now led 15 v 7.
The next try to the Barbarians was of a similar nature when a missed tackle in mid-field and great support play saw the Barbarians streak down the right wing to score in the corner. The failed conversion made it 20 v 7.
The Barbarians blew the 4th kickoff in a row after good pressure from Nik Pavesic but made amends when they hammered the Gaijin in the next scrum, despite the Gaijin having had parity thus far in the set piece. They capitalised on this with a strong run down the left by a couple of forwards and then spread it to the right to score in that right corner again. The Chiba side were not assisting their kicker with all these tries out in the flanks of the field but they were now commanding a healthy lead of 25 v 7 and this score remained until half time.
The Gaijin made a key change at standoff, swapping centre Mosese Rarasea into the position and moving Aisea Kaloumaira one out after a first half he would rather forget. Wataru Sato also replaced Tomoya Nakagawa at half and Yamagen came on at fullback with Takeshi Kawai moving to centre and Touch Roy being replaced.
The Gaijin started the second half as poorly as they finished the first and soon found themselves huddled near their posts again as the Barbarians walked back to half way, having scored out wide after a poor Gaijin defensive line lapsed yet again. The poor kicking at goal continued so the score was now 30 v 7.
At this stage Mosese Rarasea decided he had had enough and came off with an injury and Touch Roy rejoined the fray. The gaijin were momentarily jolted into action after a big run from Joe Nawaqavanua which led to Gareth Palmer, who had only been on for 5 minutes, scoring under the posts. Yamagen converted to make thee score 30 v 14.
Soon after Palmer threw a shocking pass in the backs and the Barbarians picked up the rolling ball and raced away 60 metres to score. Showing that goals were not important for the day, they unexplicably had a drop goal conversion attempt in front and missed. Perhaps they were giving the Gaijin a message and laughing in their faces. Score 35 v 14.
Palmer was off straight after the try with what he claimed was a leg injury but we all know it was with high embarrassment that he rejoined the bench, and captain Shinichiro Nakayama went back out to do battle.
Chiba would score the final two tries in a similar mode to most of their tries on the day, through superior speed and nous in their backs. The first was a simple numbers problem as they spread the ball wide and got outside the Gaijin defense and the last try was scored by their fullback who seemed to run through the entire Gaijin team to score. Of course, neither of the tries were converted in a shocking kicking display for the day, but the Barbarians didn't need to as they still cruised to an easy victory of 45 v 14.
In between the two tries Nik Pavesic was yellow-carded for holding back a player who was chasing a clever kick-through. It was more out of frustration than anything else, something that the Barbarians managed to do with ease on this particular Sunday and to which the Gaijin simply had no answer.
For the Gaijin, there wasn't much to praise. Takeshi Kawai fought a solo battle in the backs making many half breaks but wasn't given much assistance by his bumbling counterparts. He was awarded the Man of the Match. Aisea Kaloumaira had what can only be considered a shocker at standoff and his two centres dropped too many balls, threw some shocking passes and missed too many tackles. Bryan O'Brien had a lot of tries scored down his wing but his inside men were not giving him much support by coming up in a slow, sloppy fashion, creating a lot of overlaps for him to cover.
In the forwards the Gaijin were simply out-enthused. It was Andy Tindall's first game at prop and he would be the first to tell you that it was tough for him. He soldiered on, as did debutante Tsunaki Tanaka but the Gaijin were otu-done in the set pieces. Joe Nawaqavanua made some powerful surges but he would be remembered for that strip from the tiny winger. Nik Pavesic was tireless in defense and attack but didn't seem to have much support. The Gaijin just seemed to be going through the motions whereas the smaller Chiba Barbarians were throwing themselves into rucks and mauls and obviously wanted the win more. The Gaijin would need to go back to the drawing board and work out how to overcome their upcoming opponents, Koryo, in the first round of the Tokyo Cup as they will be a much tougher opponent. They should probably start with their passive line defense and some really simple passing drills so that they learn to catch and pass!!
SCORE: CHIBA BARBARIANS 45 (9 Tries, 0/9 conversions) TGRFC 14 ( Takashi Tanikawa 1, Gareth Palmer 1 tries, M. Rarasea 1/1, Yamagen 1/1 conversions)
Man of the Match: Takeshi Kawai (As Takeshi went home before the after-match function, Nik Pavesic sculled his Man of the Match beer for that yellow card he received).
Goat of the Match: Aisea Kaloumaira (Should he have even received a free beer??)
1. Andy Tindall (England)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. Tsunaki Tanaka (Japan)
4. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
5. Nik Pavesic (Croatia)
6. Joe Nawaqavanua (Fiji)
7. Shinichiro Nakayama (C) (Japan)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Tomoya Nakagawa (Japan)
10. Aisea Kaloumaira (Fiji)
11. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
12. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
13. Touch Roy (Australia)
14. Bryan O'Brien (USA)
15. Takeshi Kawai (Japan)
Reserves used: Natsu Kunitomo (Japan), Gareth Palmer (Wales), Joffa Harris (Australia), Wataru Sato (Japan), Yamagen (Japan), Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)