Dateline: 16th June, 2013
In a closely fought encounter at the lovely, grassy Tatsumi Field the Tokyo Gaijin RFC held on to beat a mixed team of players from various teams in and around Tokyo that we'll call the Tokyo Barbarians 48 v 46. The match was not pretty and littered with mistakes and some poor tackling at times, but there was a lot of running rugby on display and plenty of tries.
The Gaijin got the first penalty within the first minute but Mosese Rarasea didn't find touch, which was a sign of things to come as the mistakes piled up for both teams. The Barbarians made a long run and almost scored but were stopped just metres short when Junpei Shirakawa saved the try with a tackle taking the ball carrier into touch. Shirakawa was penalised for a high tackle however and after a string of three more penalties the Barbarians scored a soft try under the posts. The kicker was beating himself up after missing the conversion from in front but the Barbarians still had the early lead. Score: 5 v 0 to the Barbarians.
The Gaijin equalized soon after, when they finally got some phases together and Shinichiro Nakayama crashed over just to the side of the posts after a quick penalty tap. Mosese Rarasea failed with the seemingly easy conversion to tie the scores up at 5 v 5.
The Barabraians were soon on the attack again deep in the Gaijin half but good defense kept them out until a ridiculous pass from Ryogo Takemura was intercepted and the Barbarians centre raced 40 metres to score untouched under the posts. Witht he successsful conversion the score now stood at 12 v 5 to the Barbarians.
Captain Shinichiro Nakayama made it a double soon after when the Gaijin capitalised on the opposite fullbacks dropped kick. Rarasea fialed with the conversion again leaving the Gaijin behind 12 v 10.
Junpei Shirakawa finally put the Gaijin in front when Hitoshi Chihara regathered a clever Arthur Levula chip and passed off to Shirakawa to race the last 20 metres to score. The opposition fullback lashed out with his feet in frustration in an attempted soccer tackle and was warned by the referee and led to a penalty to the Gaijin from halfway mark after Rarasea converted. Score: 17 v 12 to the Gaijin.
Prop Tomohiro Setoguchi was heavily involved in the next try when he made a good 20 metre run after a sweet inside pass from Levula. He was caught just centimetres short of the line. Wataru Sato was rewarded for being the first Gaijin player there by picking up the ball at thee back of the ruck and diving over the line. Rarasea missed the conversion but the Gaijin had skipped out to the biggest lead of the game at 22 v 12.
The Barbarians would soon change this after a couple of mistakes from the Gaijin gifted them an easy try. Arthur Levula tried another grubber kick through the oncoming defense only to see the ball go straight into an opponents hands who raced away untouched to score under the posts. Where was the defense? Simply not there! Score: 22 v 19 to the Gaijin.
At this stage some of the players were starting to feel the heat of the day as the sun came out after a morning of rain, but the players kept plugging away. The Gaijin were responsible for two rolling mauls in the next period of play with the first maul being rolled 25 metres up over half way. A couple of phases later another rolling maul looked to be heading for a try and there seemed to be two attempts to collapse it from the Barbarians but the referee played on and then penalised the Gaijin. For what, I am not sure. Maybe obstuction?
The Gaijin went into the haftime break narrowly in front with the score at 22 v 19. In the interests of getting everyone game time Takashi Tanikawa came on for Liam Ramshaw, Tomfumi Nohara came on for Ryogo Takemura, and Phillip Ferreira came on for Wataru Sato.
Takashi Tanikawa instantly made his presence felt when he won an oppostion line out froma n over-thow and made a good 20 metre run. This was followed by a 30 metre run by Hitoshi Chihara but he was tackled into touch. The same two guys were instrumental in the next try when Chihara made another good break and Takashi Tanikawa picked up the ball from the back of a ruck and ran 20 metres for a try. Score: 29 v 19 to the Gaijin.
The Barbarians weren't going to let the Gaijin get too far ahead though and were helped by a few mistakes. First Phillip Ferreira dropped his first touch and then Gareth Palmer was penalised for holding on. A few phases later and the Barbarians had plenty of numbers to the right and swing it that way and their fullback scored in the corner. The missed conversion left them a try behind at 29 v 24.
The Gaijin increased the lead soon after when Takamitsu Sakai took a quick tap 15 meterss out and went straight through the defense to score wiithout a hand being laid on him. The defense seemed to be confused as did Sakai at first because until this stage the referee had brought back every other quick tap attempt to his mark, bar Nakayama's first try. Hitoshi Chihara had been instrumental in the build up when a Barbarian player was penalised for holding on when it was obvious that Chaihara was first there and had all rights to the ball. Rarasea converted to put the Gaijin out to a 36 v 24 lead, the biggest of the game thus far.
The Barbarians soon hauled the lead in though when the Gaijin scrum which had been dominant all game seemed to falter. From a scrum about 20 metres out from their own line Halfback Tomfumi Nohara didn't get clean ball at the back, and his opposite number kicked the ball through and dived on it to score an easy try. Score: 36 v 29 to the Gaijin.
The Barbarians closed the gap even further when they went blind from a scrum just inside the Gaijin half and scored down the right flank. It was all too easy. Where was the defense? It's a mystery! Score: 36 v 34 to the Gaijin.
With just two points separating the teams and both sides having leaky defenses the last 10 minutes was going to be interesting. And the Barbarians showed that they planned to come home strong when they scored the next try to take the lead for the first time since early in the game. Their outside centre went straight through a hole in the Gaijin backline to score a try that ws just all too easy. The conversionn gave the Barbarians a 41 v 36 lead and the Gaijin had it all in front of them.
The Gaijin needed to produce some magic and it was the inside backs that came to the rescue. A cheeky little kickoff by Arthur Levula to the opposite side of the field to where the forwards were, barely went 10 metres, and was recovered by Hitoshi Chihara. Chihara got the ball back to Levula, Mosese Rarasea followed up with a powerful surge and Hitoshi Chihara backed up to score under the posts. Yamagen converted to to give the lead back to the Gaijin. Score 43 v 41.
The lead was increased soon after when Takamitsu Sakai broke from a maul. Gorka Gerediaga rolled off him with the ball and made some good yards but was caught short of the try line. The ball was quickly recycled and Arthur Levula ran a good line to crash over and increase the lead to 48 v 41 with Yamagen failing with the conversion.
The Gaijin were a converted try in front with a just a few minutes to go but with the see-saw nature of the game anything was possible. The Barbarians had a chance to draw the game after a handful of penalties and a few crashes at the line saw them break the Gaijin defense and go over to score. The conversion to draw the game was a poor attempt and the Gaijin remained in the lead at 48 v 46.
Hitoshi Chihara closed the game out when he intercepted the ball with the Barbarians deep in Gaijin territory and on the attack. He raced 70 metres upfield before being hauled in by the defense and the Gaijin held on to win a topsy-turvey game 48 v 46.
The game was hardly a display of top-class rugby with both teams guilty of far too many mistakes.The defense of both teams was also quite poor at times.While the day turned out to be quite hot and humid the condition of the field was superb so there can be no excuses there. Both teams scored 8 tries and it was only the poor conversion rate of the Barbarian team that made the difference.
Hitoshi Chihara was superb in the Gaijin backs, while Arthur Levula, after 2 years away from Japan, showed some nice touches, though he looks a bit short of a run. In the forwards, captain Shinichiro Nakayama worked hard, as did Takashi Tanikawa and props Tomohiro Setoguchi and Tsunaki Tanaka but the Man of the Match award went to Takeshi Ochiai for a tireless display in both attack and defense and a dominant display in the line-outs.
SCORE: TGRFC 48 (Shinichiro Nakayama 2, Junpei Shirakawa 1, Wataru Sato 1, Takashi Tanikawa 1, Takamistu Sakai 1, Hitoshi Chihara 1, Arthur Lavula 1 tries, M. Rarasea 3/6, Yamagen1/2 conversions) Tokyo Barbarians 46 (8 tries, 3/8 conversions)
Man of the Match: Takeshi Ochiai
1. Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
2, Takamitsu Sakai (Japan)
3, Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
4. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
5. Gareth Palmer (Wales)
6. Liam Ramshaw (England)
7. Takeshi Ochiai (Japan)
8. Shinichiro Nakayama (Japan)
9. Ryogo Takemura (Japan)
10. Arthur Levula (Fiji)
11. Wataru Sato (Japan)
12. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
13. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
14. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
15. Junpei Shirakawa (Japan)
Reserves used: Natsu Kunitomo (Japan), Takashi Tanikawa (Japan), Tomofumi Nohara (Japan), Phillip Ferreira (South Africa), Yamagen (Japan)