Dateline: 28th April, 2013

With the memories of a humbling loss two weeks earlier the Tokyo Gaijin RFC rallied at the Kasai Rinkai Koen ground once more to take on a strong, yet depleted Olivers RFC in the second round of the Tokyo Cup. With our own problems resulting from a forwards injury list longer than my… arm, a late call up to new recruit Kosuke Yamamoto meant we were able to put a competitive side on the park.

With the pairing of the young Joffa “boom shaka laka” Harris and the ever green Paulo “im not dirty” de Berriozabal in the back row, the game plan was clear – Rattle them!

The game started slowly with the kick off not going ten, so the first scrum was set.  Expecting Olivers to have a solid scrum with big Shimada-san packing down, the Gaijin boys stood up and put Olivers in their place, driving them back each and every time throughout the game.

While our attack was also looking powerful with Takeshi Kawai, Junpai Shirakawa, Hitoshi Chihara and Matt Downer all running hard off Toshi Miyano at stand-off,  too many times, when we looked threatening, the Gaijin were let down by some silly penalties.

First points were put on the board about 12mins in with a spectacular team effort starting with a kick return from fullback Junpei Shirakawa, who connected with a bumping and spinning Shinichiro Nakayama, who handed the ball off to Matt Downer, back to Paulo de Berriozabal, and finally to John Simpson who crashed over for a well-earned 5 pointer. Toshi missed the conversion (Score: 5-0 to Gaijin).

Hits by de Berriozabal and Toshi Miyano started to add a bit of aggression to the battle, as well as some more authoritative running by Takeshi Kawai, crashing the ball up with no regard for his own body. However again some small lapses in judgment continued to plague any consistency in the Gaijin game, with Hitoshi Chihara throwing an intercept pass within the 22m. Luckily the human goal post Matt Downer was able to pilfer 1m out from the try line saving a certain Oliver’s meat pie. But all the hard work was soon undone after a sloppy lineout and a silly penalty in front for leaving our feet, gifting Olivers their first 3 points. (Score 5-3 to the Gaijin).

Reeling the score line back in Olivers soon found themselves in attacking territory again. While the Gaijin made a valiant effort to hold them out for a good 8 min straight, it was not enough in the end as we fell off a few tackles letting Olivers to slip through for their first try. With the conversion attempt going right between the big sticks, Olivers had now taken the lead (Score: 5-10 to Olivers).

The Gaijin forwards were really working hard, they were superior in strength and it was showing at the scrums, in mauls and in general play. Some great tight five work lead by Gorka Gerediaga and Jesse Takahashi, was being well supported by the mongrel shown by Joffa Harris and Paulo de Berriozabal… but could the energy last?

Kawai continued his battering ram running style, bumping off at least 18 of their players before finally getting dragged down before the line, but with Joffa right there in support he was able to pick, drive, and reach out, to slam down another 5 pointer under the posts for the Gaijin. Despite opposition complaints they were distracted by glare coming off the hairless cranium, the try was awarded and Gaijin were back in front. Toshi adding the extras (Score: 12-10 to Gaijin).

Now with a bit of a roll, the Gaijin were taking advantage of their domination around the park and looking like a team (even the backs were firing!). Almost immediately following the kick off, it was in the hands of Double D “Dangerous Downer” who together with Hitoshi Chihara and Toshi Miyano dazzled, showing exceptional ball skills. Finally the  “move” was finished off by some pace from the little number 9 Sota Kaneko, who took the ball the last 40m down the sideline and  over the white line in the right corner. Conversion missed by Miyano. (Score: 17-10 to Gaijin).

With 2 minutes still to play in the first half, the Gaijin had got a little slack or a little tired. Either way, they were lucky to get let off when Olivers missed a penalty shot. Were some cracks starting to show in what had been a great half of rugby?

The second half started much like the first, with an unforced mistake, giving away a penalty for coming in from the side. Following a well-timed Oliver’s lineout, the Gaijin were soon under pressure again in their half. However showing some character, the Gaijin boys dug deep to absorbed the pressure and turned over the ball allowing Toshi to provide a beautiful clearing kick.

Bouncing back, we nailed our own line-out and mauled it down to within 5m of the try line. But again another silly penalty meant we lost possession at a crucial time and Olivers took the opportunity to kick for touch and take the line-out throw. Fortunately, the Gaijin were able to win the ball against the throw and it was take 2! This time the maul went close to the  solid white line and Joffa Harris spun off the back and grounded the ball for his second try of the match. Toshi missed the conversion (Score: 22-10 to the Gaijin).

From what had been a stellar 60 mins, approximately half way through the second half the Gaijin were looking like a different team. There had been some substitutions with Paulo, Joffa & Matt Downer succumbing to age, but it felt like the attitude and enthusiasm had dropped off completely. In particular, the Oliver’s number 10 and13 were being allowed to slip through gaps that were not there before, while their number 8 was running riot in the forwards where we had been so strong. Where was our composure? Would we have the passion to close this game out?

Inevitably, as he had been threating to do for a while, the 10 slipped through 1 too many gaps, setting up Oliver’s for their second try. They were climbing back and the conversion was again successful making it 22-17 to the Gaijin.

Hitting back, the Gaijin received a penalty right in front. Although due to the unsuccessful nature of our kicking on this particular day, we considered going for the try… realizing a penalty goal would put the Gaijin 8 points up, some strong and very vocal advice from the sideline soon corrected this consideration and Toshi slotted the penalty right over the black dot. (Score: 25 v 18 to Gaijin)

At this point the game seemed to get very messy. There were dropped balls and mistakes everywhere. In all honesty the backs wouldn’t have been able to catch an STD at a brothel. For a moment things did look up as the Gaijin finally went on another attacking raid, with Gorka charging for the line. But right when you may have thought he was going to score his first try for the team, he completely forgot the rules of rugby and failed to release the ball when he was tackled, dived over the line and was penalised for a double movement. Once again, another silly lapse of judgment.

Not long after Olivers made the most of another penalty in front of the posts and sent the ball over. Now they were starting to smell victory (Score: 25-20 to Gaijin).

With the game now almost over, 5 points should have been enough to claim the win. But like in the last 2 mins of the first half, the Gaijin had turned off. Olivers kept threating right to the final play and the Gaijin were slipping off tackles. Finally Olivers made a break between two Gaijin defenders (Toshi Miyano and Jo Iwasaki, who were later awarded the Gaot(s) of the Match) who once again didn’t commit enough to the tackle and the Olivers player streaked away for an easy try. Try converted (25-27 to Olivers) Full time.

It was a very, very, disappointing result. It seemed the Gaijin were the dominant team for 38 mins of each half, but in the end, it didn’t seem like they had the same desire to win. The Gaijin had scored more tries but their goal kicking had let them down. Some slack decision making also let the lads down today as well as a few lapses in judgment. A number of small aspects could have been the difference and it shows how important playing some smart rugby is. Retrospectively, it may have been just an extra tackle, one less penalty or even simply putting the ball through the hands rather than throwing a miracle ball that cuts 6 other players, that could have changed the result.

Joffa Harris had a strong game with 2 tries. He ran hard and straight all day, really leading by example. Unfortunately he copped a knee injury half way through the 2nd half and came off. Takeshi Kawai also ran really hard in the backs, looked threating with every touch and even put a big shot on dumping their 13 on his back, while Junpei shirakawa had some terrific sweeping runs, showing the defense up with his pace.

Man of the match was Gorka Gerediaga who put everything in for 80 mins and worked hard all game. Great at the scums and the breakdown and was unlucky not to cross for his first Gaijin try.

Well done to all the boys for a tough game against some good opposition, but maybe the team needs to just consider what needs to change to close out a match, play the full 80 mins or simply just play that little bit smarter.

SCORE : OLIVERS RFC 27 (3 tries; 3/3 conversions, 2/2 penalties) TGRFC 25 (Joffa Harris 2, John Simpson 1, Sota Kaneko 1 tries; Toshi Miyano 1/4 conversions, 1/1 penalties)

Man of the Match : Gorka Gerediaga

Goat(s) of the Match: Toshi Miyano & Jo Iwasaki

TEAM:

1. Kosuke Yamamoto (Japan)

2. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)

3. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)

4. John Simpson (USA)

5. Jesse Takahsahi (USA)

6. Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)

7. Shinichiro Nakayama (c) (Japan)

8. Joffa Harris (Australia)

9. Sota Kaneko (Japan)

10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)

11. Bryan O'Brien (USA)

12. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)

13. Takeshi Kawai (Japan)

14. Matt Downer (NZ)

15. Junpei Shirakawa (Japan)

16. Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)

17. Andy Tindall (England)

18. Takeshi Ochiai (Japan)

19. Motoko Mitsuyori (Japan)

20. Tomoya Nakagawa (Japan)

21. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)

22.  Wataru Sato (Japan)