Dateline: 7th July, 2013
The event: Shuto League 10's tournament.
Aim: To win Silverware
Result: Both teams in Final.
That's right folks. The Tokyo Gaijin RFC got both teams into the final of the Shuto League 10's....so silverware was always coming to the club doesn't matter who won or lost the game. To find out the eventual winners you'll have to read on.
The TGRFC entered two teams as they have done over the past 4 years. One team was made up of players born in the Northern Hemisphere (we'll call them the North for convenience) and the other was made up of those born in the Southern Hemisphere (we'll call the South) with a few local players with southern connections thrown in to make up the numbers as at least two-thirds of the TGRFC are from the northern hemisphere.
The Gaijin teams were looking to replicate their 2010 victory in the Shuto 10's when their Southern Hemisphere contingent won the final. They had also won the tournament as one squad about 5 years before that.
As you can see from the pool and semi-final results below the Tokyo Gaijin RFC completely dominated the Shuto 10's. The North went through to the final undefeated while the South had one hiccup, losing to Acorn RFC in a terrible performance. We'll call it the loss they had to have.
The North's dominance was mostly down to excellent straight running by vice-captain and usual flanker Shinichiro Nakayama playing at centre. His deceptive speed and strength may have team management considering moving him out to the backline full time in 15's. Gorka Gerediaga was also impressive with his strength, stamina and speed being a handful for his opposition. Their big forward pack was also proving too powerful for many teams.
For the South it was more of a team effort but Arthur Levula stood out for his big hits, and speedster Semi Leiene kept the try line uncrossed with some excellent try saving tackles as sweeper.
Read on for pool and semi-final results and then of course, the Champion. Who has bragging rights for the next year? The North or the South?
(Listing tries only as goals weren't taken until the semi-finals)
Game 1 : V Goddamnz (2 v 1)
Good start over a quality side. Shinichiro Nakayama scored after chipping ahead and regathering his own kick and Ikuo Fukuda got the other one.
Game 2 : v Shinjuku Jacks (1 v 0)
Shinichiro Nakayama scored again.
Game 3 : v Gentle Giants (1 v 0)
Gorka Gerediaga scored at the back of a pushover scrum.
Game 4 : v Tokyo Crusaders (1 v 0)
Gerediaga again with a nice 20 metre run to the try line.
Game 5 : v Acorn (3 v 0)
Shinichiro Nakayama scored 2 while Don Tanaka got the other one.
Game 6 Semi-Final: v Doronco (2 v 0)
Gerediaga scored from a scrum and Tatsuma Mutou ran down the wing for 25 metres to get the other try.
Game 1 : v All France (1 v 0)
Mosese Rarasea scored after Semi Leiene had made a good break
Game 2 : v All Jin Jan (2 v 0)
Semi Leiene scored under the posts for the first one and Gareth Palmer found himself on the end of excellent play with 4 offloads in the tackle and scored a well worked try.
Game 3 : v Acorn ( 0 v 2)
One of the strangest games I have ever seen! Murray Clarke took the kickoff, ran forward, and then passed to a team mate. Only problem is the ball was intercepted and the Acorn player ran to the try line untouched. Not a great start and the only try scored against the South so far. Next kickoff Clarke takes the ball again, unloads it to Semi Leiene, who runs 20 metres across the field then throws a ball out the back of his hand to nobody and an Acorn player picks it up and races away to score untouched. Deja vu. So the Acorn side had not even had the rights to the ball so far! They had not even passed a single ball amongst them.selves! They had touched the balljust twice! And they led 2 v 0. The South tried hard to get back into the game but they were shell-shocked by such a shocking start and time simply ran out. Unbelievable game!
Game 4 : v Fuji RFC (2 v 0)
Joffa Harris playing at lock, picked up a ball that had shot out of the back of the Fuji scrum and only needed three or four paces to dot the ball down. Centre Apisai Bati scored the other with a nice jinking run and a good turn of pace.
Game 5 : v Shinjuku Jacks (4 v 0)
Murray Clarke got the first, Gareth Palmer got two with good pace, and Apisai Bati got the last when he ran sideways and then straightened up and went straight through the defense.
Game 6, Semi Final : v Kichioji Wild Turkeys (1 v 0)
Takeshi Kawai was rewarded for all his hard work through the day when he raced through to score under the posts.
With Junpei Shirakawa adding some 'real speed' to the North after a late show and their undefeated day thus far, the form guide would favour the North team. With Shinichiro Nakayama having a 'cracker' day and their big forward pack (yes, the five starting forwards have all played prop!!) the set piece would be a handful for the South.
The South were also quietly confident with some big tacklers in Mosese Rarasea, Lachlan Ainley and Arthur Levula. Gareth Palmer had also been a thorn in many sides as his deceptive pace and speed off the mark had garnered his team quite a few tries. And, they had had that game they had to lose!
Here we go. Just one half of 8 minutes with the South running into the breeze.
The North went close with a kick-through from Hitoshi Chihara getting them close to the South line. Then their big scrum absolutely bashed that of the South. The South managed to scramble the sloppy scrum ball down over the try line for another 5 metre scrum. Once again they were blasted backwards but narrowly survived and worked their way up the field. Then Apisai Bati went slightly across field about 40 meters out from the North line, attracted attention from the defense, and put Joffa Harris into space down the right wing. As he was going for the corner he realised the chasers were only half-hearted and managed to run around to score under the posts. The try was converted. 7 v 0 to the South. then Joffa was straight off to be replaced by another old-timer in Murray Clarke.
It was to be the North's pacy, danger man Junpei Shirakawa who would equalize when the ball was passed along the North backline and he wrong-footed last defender Masamichi Itagaki to score under the posts. 7-all after the successful conversion.
Game on and a tense final few minutes.
With both teams defending well, the crack in the defense they were both looking for was not coming easily. Perhaps because they knew each others play so well.
But then there it was!
Gareth Palmer found some space after good lead up work from Apisai Bati and Arthur Levula. When Palmer is in space he is hard to catch. Shut the gate! From out on the right he jinked a couple of tiring defenders and raced away to score under the posts. Then came the successful conversion then came the referee's final whistle.
That's right folks. The TGRFC Southern Hemisphere are the reigning Shuto League 10's Champions. That's two titles to them now. I wonder when the North is going to pull their weight and get some more trophies in the cabinet. Bragging rights to the South for another year!
Player of Tournament (as chosen by Shuto League Committee): Semi Leiene
South Player of the Day: Gareth Palmer
North Player of the Day: Gorka Gerediaga
Southern TGRFC team:
1. Apisai Bati (c) (Fiji)
2. Semi Leiene (Fiji)
3. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
4. Arthur levula (Fiji)
5. Joffa Harris (Australia)
6. Lachlan Ainley (Australia)
7. Murray Clarke (NZ)
8. Dan Worden (NZ)
9. Max Manson (NZ)
10. Morris Kiukakea (Solomon Islands)
11. Gareth Palmer (South Africa)
12. Masamichi Itagaki (Japan)
13. Takeshi Kawai (Japan)
14. Takeshi Ochiai (Japan)
15. Tetsuharu Kumagai (Bati's friend)
16. Mitsuhiro Noguchi (Bati's friend)
Northern TGRFC Team:
1. Richard O'Shea (c) (Wales)
2. Shinichiro Nakayama (Japan)
3. John Herger (USA)
4. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
5. Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
6. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
7. Andy Tindall (England)
8. Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)
9. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
10. Ryogo Takemura (Japan)
11. Aurelien Anatolinez (France)
12. Tomoya Nakayama (Japan)
13. Tatsuma Mutou (Japan)
14. Wataru Sato (Japan)
15. Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)
16. Tomofumi Nohara (Japan)