Dateline: June 9, 2013
The Tokyo Gaijin RFC were fighting to stay in the Tokyo Cup 1st Division when they all gathered at Misato to do battle with Shinjuku Jacks in a relegation/promotion match. (I have visions of Gareth Palmer in a tight black cat woman style suit right now belting out 'I will survive' - don't know why!) The Gaijin had been rather disappointing in the two previous Tokyo Cup games and were shellshocked by the last minute loss to Olivers RFC in the last round.
The Gaijin started with the river at their backs and it was not the start they wanted when Paulo de Berriozabal dropped the ball from the kickoff. Shinjuku Jacks immediately spread the ball across the field and were rewarded with the first penalty of the game within the first minute. The penalty attempt was successful and the Shinjuku Jacks had got off to a bright start. Score: 0 v 3 to Jacks.
Some good forward play from the Gaijin got them up to Jacks 22 metre line and they forced a ruck penalty. Sota Kaneko stepped up to have a shot at goal but his attempt was waved away.
A good run by Hitoshi Chihara from just inside his own half was consolidated by good support play from Paulo de Berriozabal and Shinichiro Nakayama but the play eventually broke down when the ball was lost just inside the Jacks 22 metre area.
The Jacks had the next chance to add to the score line when they received their sixth penalty and decided to have another shot at goal. They were unsuccessful but were dominating territorially and the Gaijin were pushing too many passes in their attempt to catch up on the scoreboard.
Finally, in the 25th minute, the Gaijin went over the white line from the back of a scrum after some concerted crashes from the forwards. It was No.8 Takashi Tanikawa who came up with the spoils. Junpei Shirakawa converted to give the Gaijin the lead for the first time in the game at 7 v 3.
The Shinjuku Jacks came back strongly and scored under the posts soon after following some rubbish defense. With the successful conversion they had wrested back the lead. Score: 7 v 10.
In the 39th minute the Gaijin got a penalty 25 metres out and in front. Junpei Shirakawa stepped up to nail it and even the scores at 10 v 10 as the teams went into their half time huddles.
The Gaijin didn' seem to be playing like a team facing relegation as they had been out-played thus far. The referee was particulary harsh on them but they had to take him out of the equation and value the ball more. They had 40 minutes to play like a team that deserved to stay in 1st Division.
As in the first half, a successful kickoff proved to be beyond them when Sota Kaneko kicked out on the full. The jacks failed to capitalise on the mistake and the Gaijin gradually worked their way back into a strong position. About 5 minutes into the half the Gaijin took the lead again through a well taken try to wing Alaister Nimmo. In the lead-up the forwards had crunched the ball up and recycled it quickly. With the defense back-peddaling Hitoshi Chihara ran wide on the angle and hit Nimmo with a nice inside ball. Nimmo ran a great line and went over the line in the last defenders tackle. Shirakawa failed with thee conversion but the Gaijin had thee lead back at 15 v 10.
In the 52 minute, after a series of powerful rolling mauls, prop Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka crashed over the line off the back of one. Shirakawa missed the conversion again but the relegation dangerzone was being hald at bay with thee lead now 20 v 10 to the Gaijin.
With just 10 minutes to go, the last substitutions were made with Kosuke Yamamoto and Joffa Harris coming on for Tomohiro Setoguchi and Takashi Tanikawa.
The Gaijin then managed to increase their lead when a great offload (not sure who it was) saw Hitoshi Chihara steam into a hole and race away to score. Shirakawa converted and the lead was now a hard-to-catch 17 points meaning Shinjuku Jacks would have to score at least two converted tries to win. Score: 27 v 10.
The Jacks were not going to die wondering and managed to get the first of the needed tries after some poor handling by the Gaijin coughed up the ball. Their conversion was successsful and the score was now a more respectable 27 v 17 to the Gaijin.
The Gaijin would have the last say in the game when Junpei Shirakawa cut the defense to ribbonswitth a 30 right up the middle and got the Gaijin within 10 metres of the Jacks try line. After a series of forward charges at the line from rucks it would be fullback Shirakawa who emerged from the side of the ruck and barge his way over. He missed with the conversion but the Gaijin would hang on to win 32 v 17.
So....the Tokyo Gaijin RFC remain in 1st Division for the 2014 Tokyo Cup season.
Shinjuku Jacks played very well and will probably be knocking on the door for 1st Division again next year. They are too good to stay down there for long.
The Gaijin will need to play better in the Tokyo Cup next year if they want to stay away from the relegation zone. The error rate was too high and the defense was poor in parts. The Gaijin also need to work the referees better as they were down 6 v 1 in the penalties at one stage.
On the positive side, the forwards worked tirelessly and were well led by prop Lachan Ainley and flanker Shinchiro Nakayama. In the backs the two centres Takeshi Kawai and Hitoshi Chihara were always probing and causing problems for the defense and Junpei Shirakawa was solid at fullback with some elusive darting runs.
SCORE: TGRFC 32 (Takashi Tanikawa 1, Alistair Nimmo 1, Don Tanaka 1, Hitoshi Chaihara 1, Junpei Shirakawa 1 tries; J. Shirakawa 2/5 goals, 1/1 penalties, S. Kaneko 0/1 penalties) Shinjuku Jacks 17 (2 tries, 2/2 conversions, 1/1 penaties)
Man Of the Match: Lachlan Ainley
Goat of the Match: Mosese Rarasea
1. Lachlan Ainley (Australia)
2. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
3. Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
4. Richard O'Shea (c) (Wales)
5. Jesse Takahashi (USA)
6. Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)
7. Shinichiro Nakayama (vc) (Japan)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Tatsuma Mutou (Japan)
10. Sota Kaneko (Japan)
11. Alaister Nimmo (England)
12. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
13. Takeshi Kawai (Japan)
14. Wataru Sato (Japan)
15. Junpei Shirakawa (Japan)
Reserves: 16. Kosuke Yamamoto (Japan), 17. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque), 18. Barry Lobendahn (Fiji), 19. Joffa Harris (Australia), 20. Motoki Mitsuyori (Japan), 21. Tomoya Nakayama (Japan), 22. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)