Dateline: September 29th, 2013
In what has been the traditaional batttle for the number 1 spot in the Shuto League over the past few years the Tokyo Gaijin RFC came up against Olivers RFC to go a long way towards deciding who would be the Shuto League Champion for 2013. Last year Olivers narrowly pipped the Gaijin in the same fixture at the same ground (Inagi Stadium) and took the title, and earlier this year in the Tokyo Cup, Olivers came from behind to score in the last minute to win the game. Everyone expected a similar close game.
Unfortunately the little man in the middle with the whistle had a huge bearing on the game and Olivers ended up romping away to their biggest win over the Gaijin.
The Gaijin started the game strongly and forced a penalty from the first scrum as the Olivers scrum popped up. Mosese Rarasea had the chance to open the scoring but his penalty missed the mark.
Then it was the Olivers RFC chance to cash in on a string of penalties. They converted their attempt and led 3 v 0.
The penalties kept coming and the Gaijin started to lose their cool when the referee penalised them twice for what seemed like two legal lineout sacks. The Olivers fullback stepped up to nail another penalty and they led 6 v 0. The fact that Olivers were taking the points showed that they respected the Gaijin and were finding it tough to break through their line.
Sam Deroeck was on fire and put in two massive hits in a row but was penalised for one of them for being too late, which was debatable, but not for the finicky referee.
Deroeck was in the action again soon after when he ran down the left wing, beat a tackle and then fended off two more would-be tacklers to cap off an amazing 60 metre run. Rarasea missed the conversion but the Gaijin were back in the game and the first to score a try. Score: 6 v 5 to Olvers RFC.
Olivers would get more points next from yet another penalty - this time for offside at the ruck. Score: 9 v 5 to Olivers RFC.
The Gaijin should have scored next but Paulo de Berriozabal was penalized for crawling through the ruck while holding the ball. He did get the ball down over the line but the referee said that he should have released the ball. All the hard work and lack of patience meant that the Gaijin would go into half time down 9 v 5.
The half had been fairly even with Olivers slightly ahead in possession and territory stakes and way ahead on the penalty count. The referee was starting to aggravate players with some of his interpretations of the laws and the Gaijin would need to re-focus and try to take the referee out of the game. If they could do this, many of those watching on believed that the Gaijin could take the game as quite a few of the Olivers forwards were beginning to walk at the end of the first half.
The second half began with Olivers getting three straight penalties and eventually going for goal. The kick was successful and they were now out to a 12 v 5 lead.
The Gaijin then looked likely to score when Junpei Shirakawa picked up a loose ball and raced away. He only had the covering fullback to beat and that seemed likely, but then the referee blew his whistle. The Gaijin players and followers alike were stunned. He had fallen over but nowhere near the play and had not obstructed anybody. In fact, it seemed like he had his eyes on the play the whole time and most poeple inside the stadium, and I dare guess the Olivers players too, were amazed that he didn't let play go on. Some of the incensed reserves and followers even cleared the sideline. Basically, there was an uproar.
This was where the Gaijin lost the plot and their faith in the referee and their game went out the window. It was just one ridiculous call too many.
A yellow card to fresh reserve Apisai Bati, soon after, for not retreating the required 10 metres from a penalty saw the Gaijin sink further into the mire. The pressure told and Olivers RFC scored immediately through good rucking and mauling. The lead after the missed conversion was 17 v 5.
They scored again soon after as the penalties against the Gaijin piled up relentlessly. From a scrum about 40 metres out the Olivers backs broke through the Gaijin line to race away and score. They failed to convert. It was obvious that the Gaijin had given up and were extremely frustrated with the referee. One player even left the field with no desire to play on, saying the referee 'made it impossible to win'. Score: 22 v 5 to Olivers.
They scored two more times before this farce was complete. One was from a quick tap and the then the Olivers forwards driving through the Gaijin forward pack and they scored the other when the Gaijin just dropped off tackles. Both of them were converted making the final score 36 v 5.
In the last ten minutes the Gaijin had another player sinbinned when Hitoshi Chihara was given his marching orders for backchat. It was close to the sideline and he barely opened his mouth so everybody was stunned, especially when you consider the constant talking to the referee from the Olivers players.
The Gaijin players were furious after the game with many players saying that they had never seen such a terrible, biased referee. A terrible referee can be handled as bad decisions go both ways but this referee was shockingly baised.
Olivers RFC played strong, hard rugby, as the Gaijin expected. They may have got less players to the ruck but they were more effective and hit them low and with venom. Their backs also played well with their big outside centre being particularly hard for the Gaijin to control and their fullback and standoff controlling play well and using clever kicks when needed.
The Gaijin had looked strong in the first half but succumbed to the pressure and let the woeful refereeing put them off their game in the second half. The Gaijin scrum was superior to the Olivers scrum but the forwards let all their good work in the first half mean nothing when they were outplayed at the ruck and maul by their opponents as the second half wore on.
As Irishman Tom Burke said after the game, " It doesn't matter how much you bitch and moan you'll never change the referee's mind". Truer words have never been spoken. This referee seemed to have had enough of the Gaijin's complaining (mostly in English which may be aggravating for a non-English speaker??) about this and that at the beginning of the second half and hit a switch that made him see every Gaijin play as foul play.
The TGRFC will be praying they never have this referee again but they should also learn a lesson and try to keep on the referee's good side as he has the power to help you win or lose.
Editor's Note: I understand refereeing is a tough and thankless job. While many of us are obviously biased towards our own team, a lot of us have played many years of rugby, both here in Japan and in our own countries. While there are certainly some Gaijin players who give away stupid penalties for not coming through the gate or hands in the rucks etc, I really, really cannot believe we gave away so many penalties. Though I lost count I would hazard a gues that the Olivers RFC received well over 30 penalties. There was just a constant flood of them in the second half and as one player noted, the referee made it impossible for the Gaijin to win.
Hitoshi Chihara's yellow card was a farce, especially when you consider that the Olivers players were constanlty in the referees ears, effectively refereeing the game. Admittedly, hearing Japanese would be a lot more pleasnt than hearing angry Westerners swearing.
What really confirmed how poor, and biased, the referee was (not that I needed any confirmation), was when some of the senior Japanese players in the Gaijin team were astounded by his performance and similarly furious. It wasn't just the gaijin (foreign) players complaining.
SCORE: Olivers RFC 36 (4 tries, 2/4 conversions, 4/4 penalties) TGRFC 5 (Sam Deroeck 1 try, M. Rarasea 0/1 conversions, 0/1 penalties)
Man of the Match: Sam Deroeck
Goat(s) of the Match: Apisai Bati & Hitoshi Chihara (for those yellow cards)
1. Lachlan Ainley (Australia)
2. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
3. Takaharu 'Jyake' Arumaki (Japan)
4. Richard O'Shea (c) (Wales)
5. Jesse Takahashi (USA)
6. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
7. Shinichiro Nakayama (vc) (Japan)
8. Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)
9. Eamonn Murphy (Ireland)
10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)
11. Alaister Nimmo (England)
12. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
13. David Chan (Australia)
14. Sam Deroeck (England)
15. Junpei Shirakawa (Japan)
Reserves used: Tsunaki Tanaka (Japan), Gorka Gerediaga (Basque), Apisai Bati (Fiji), Mosese Rarasea (Fiji), Phillip Ferreira (South Africa), Ryo Takahashi (USA), Tatsuma Muto (Japan)