Dateline: September 8, 2013

The first round of the Shuto League for 2013 had Tokyo Gaijin RFC up against Goddams RFC with both clubs keen to get their capaign off to a good start. It was also the start to the new scrum rules introduced into rugby recently.

The game did not get off to a good start with Goddams putting the kickoff out on the full and from the following scrum on halfway Gaijin standoff Sota Kaneko did the same with his kick. So the game wasn't even 1 minute old and both teams had made fundamental errors.

The first 15 minutes was a tough grind as both teams tried to gain the upper hand. The Gaijin came closest to scoring with the ball being trucked up through their forwards but halfback Tomoya Nakayama messed up at the back of a ruck and then centre Phillip Ferreira knocked on bringing all the forwards good work to nothing.

Then it was Goddams turn to dominate possession and territory but they failed to capitalize and Junpei Shirakawa got the lucky break the team was looking for. Goddams threw a loose ball out in their backline and Shirakawa hacked the ball down field. He won the race to the ball and hacked it ahead again. He was pushed during the chase but still managed to keep his footing and beat his opponent to the ball and dive on it in-goal to get the first points of the game. He failed to convert his own try though but the Gaijin had the first lead of the game at 5 v 0 in the 24th minute.

The Gaijin probably should have scored next after another loose ball from Goddams saw new Kiwi recruit Grant Rolls pick up and sprint away with the defense struggling to catch him. Unfortunately the referee was too hasty in blowing his whistle and failed to play the advantage.

Goddams capitalized on the Gaijin misfortune to draw equal soon after. Gaijin standoff Sota Kaneko was wrapped up with the ball and had it ripped off him A few rucks later Goddams swung it wide and scored with a one man overlap. They failed with the conversion. Score : 5 v 5.

A few good agggressive runs from Motoki Miysuyori and Paulo de Barriozabal took the Gaijin out of their half and got them well into enemy territory. Goddams then dropped the ball on their own line and Paulo de Berriozabal dived on it to score. Grant Rolls missed the conversion leaving the Gaijin lead at 10 v 5.

From the kickoff de Berriozabal was straight back into the battle with another charging run and with the forwards combining well the Gaijin worked there way to just outside the Goddams line again. From a scrum 5 metres out a nice crisp pass from half Eamonn Murphy to Grant Rolls, who ran a beautiful line, saw Rolls go over the try line untouched to score his first try, on debut, for the Gaijin. Mosese Rarasea converted to put the Gaijin out to a 17 v 5 lead.

The next period of play was memorable for a couple of crunching runs from Mosese Rarasea who smashed off players with some powerful charges.

The Gaijin scored next to seemingly put a win beyond Goddams reach. Goddams once again were guilty of turnover ball after dropping it in their backs. Grant Rolls picked up the ball and sprinted 40 metres. He was just about to be run down from behind but had the vision to pass it to Shuzo Takazawa coming up in support and Takazawa went over the line, despite being tackled just before it. Rarasea couldn't add the extras but the lead now stood at 22 v 5.

Goddams never gave up and got the final try of the game after a solid charge from the back of a screwed scrum, a tactic they had used all game without any questioning from the referee. This had given their number 8 a distinct advantage despite the Gaijin domination of the set-piece and one feels that either their tight-head prop should have been penalised for not holding the scrum steady or for walking backwards on purpose. To his credit the no.8 had mastered getting the ball out quickly from the back of a scrum going backwards and turning, and this gave him the jump on the Gaijin loose forwards. The Goddams kicker missed the final conversion to make the final score 22 v 10.

The new scrum rules didn't seem to cause too many problems for either team though one of the Goddams props struggled in the strength department as previously mentioned. The Gaijin forwards had dominated their opposition in the scrum and narrowly overshadowed them in the rucking and mauling. It was through individual charges from players like Paulo de Berriozabal, Motoki Mitsuyori, Mosese Rarasea & Lachlan Ainley where the Gaijin made a lot of ground.

The Gaijin backs were solid without being outstanding. Phillip Ferreira, who played well generally, was given the Goat of the Game for a few dropped balls, one being a simple one from a kickoff. Grant Rolls had a solid debut, starting at fullback and moving into standoff at halftime when Sota Kaneko was replaced for too many mistakes.

SCORE : TGRFC 22 (Junpei Shirakawa 1, Paulo de Berriozabal 1, Grant Rolls 1, Shuzo Takazawa 1 tries, J. Shirakawa 0/1, G. Rolls 0/1, M. Rarasea 1/2 conversions) Goddamz 10 (2 tries, 0/2 conversions)

Man of the Match: Motoki Mitsuyori

Goat of the Match: Phillip Ferreira

TEAM:

1. Lachlan Ainley (Australia)

2. Takamitsu Sakai (Japan)

3. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)

4. Richard O'Shea (c) (Wales)

5. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)

6. Motoki Mitusyori (Japan)

7. Shinichiro Nakayama (vc) (Japan)

8. Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)

9. Tomoya Nakagawa (Japan)

10. Sota Kaneko (Japan)

11. Tatsuma Muto (Japan)

12. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)

13. Phillip Ferreira (South Africa)

14. Junpei Shirakawa (Japan)

15. Grant Rolls (NZ)

Reserves : Liam Ramshaw (England), Takeo Honda (Japan), Takeshi Koba (Japan), Andy Tindall (England), Aurelien Antolinez (France), Ryo Takahsahi (Japan), Takashi Tanikawa (Japan), Eamonn Murphy (Ireland), Ryogo Takemura (Japan), Mosese Rarasea (Fiji), Shuzo Takazawa (Japan), Wataru Sato (Japan), Yamagen (Japan)