Dateline: November 10th, 2013
The Tokyo Gaijin have finished off their Shuto League season with a big 39 v 0 win over Dandelions RFC at Inagi Stadium. The win came after the team was bouyed through the week with the news that the Tokyo Crusaders had surprisingly beaten Olivers RFC 24 v 6 which left all three clubs a chance of winning the title this year. The Gaijin knew they had to win with a 4 try bonus point and even try for the 'no points' bonus point which is unique to the Shuto League. Their mission was accomplished in style.
The Tokyo Gaijin RFC kicked off with a strong wind at their backs. Despite playing into the wind Dandelions showed their intentions early with a bomb and then a long kick. Play was centred around the halfway for a good 5 minutes or so as the two teams wrestled for supremacy.
Tatsuma Muto sparked the first bit of promising play when he chipped over the defense for the corner. The Gaijin won the ball back in the ruck but a lack of patience saw the ball go wide when the forwards should have kept trundling it up. An ordinary pass form fullback Junpei Shirakawa to hooker Liam Ramshaw out on the wing (yes, the wing!!) rolled along the ground and caused the Gaijin to lose territory and momentum.
The Gaijin did manage to stay in Dandelions territory and from a scrum 15 metres out from the Dandelions try line they pushed their opposition back a good 5 metres. No.8 Takashi Tanikawa then went for a run from the back of the scrum. A quick ruck resulted and then a penalty followed. A quick tap and powerful charge from Mosese Rarasea was stopped but you could feel the hurt he inflicted. Hitoshi Chihara followed it up with a charge of his own and over the try line he went. Rarasea couldn't add the extras. Score 5 v 0 to the Gaijin.
The Dandelions players were putting in low, strong tackles but the wave of Gaijin attackers was proving difficult for them to handle. Good steady ruck work got the Gaijin deep into Dandelions' territory and then a couple of charges from Lachie Ainley and then Hitoshi Chihara saw Takashi Tanikawa go over the line with three tacklers hanging off him. Rarasea failed with the conversion. Score 10 v 0.
The Gaijin were deep in enemy territory again soon after when a Hitoshi Chihara kick got them insode the Dandelions 22 metre area for a lineout. A scrum penalty soon after resulted in another quick tap by Mosese Rarasea who made another pwerful run. Takashi Tanikawa the drove through two tacklers to score again. Rarasea failed with the conversion again. Score: 15 v 0.
From a scrum not long after the restart Tanikawa was in the thick of the action again with a good 20 metre run from the back and then Gorka Gerediaga added a further 10 more valuable metres. The Gaijin went close to scoring minutes later but the pick and drive was a bit slow to be set up and the Dandelions forced a 'no release' penalty. Another penalty soon after had the Dandelions inside the Gaijin half for the first time since the opening minutes but good pressure from scrum half Tatsuma Muto forced the Dandelions halfback to drop the ball.
Junpei Shirakawa ran down the blind soon after and chipped ahead. He won the race to the ball and toed it further ahead but was beaten to the ball this time by an opposition back who managed to ground it over the try line. From the 22 drop out Motoki Mitsuyori made a big run and then the Gaijin got a penalty for a ruck infringement. A strong rolling maul saw Mitsuyori dive over the line but the referee decided against the try claiming the ball was passed forward to him. A big scrum though forced a Gaijin feed on the reset. Takashi Tanikawa went close to scoring his third but was stopped just short and Liam Ramshaw charged over the line a few rucks later to score. Mosese Rarasea, having a shocker with the boot, missed from virtually in front. Score: 20 v 0.
So the Gaijin had got their much-desired bonus point for 4 tries by half time. They now wanted to turn their attention to the other bonus point - for holding their opposition scoreless. It would prove harder this half as the Dandelions would have the wind advantage but it didn't seem to be as strong as when the game started and was prone to changing direction. The Gaijin forwards needed to keep tight and continue doing the 'pick and drives' which had worked so successfully in the first half. Defense would be a big issue if they were to keep their opponents scoreless.
The half did not get away to a good start when Motoki Mitsuyori let the ball bounce from the kickoff, claiming the sun was in his eyes. Dandelions regained the ball and made a rare foray into the Gaijin 22 metre area but knocked on a couple of rucks later to have the Gaijin breathing a little easier.
Five minutes later a Mosese Rarasea kick for the corner was too deep but the Dandelions fullback knocked the ball on in his in-goal area giving the Gaijin a 5 metre scrum. The scrum was going forward for the Gaijin but messy control at the back saw Takashi Tanikawa knock the ball on. A penalty from the next scrum to the Gaijin was quickly tapped by Mosese Rarasea but he lost the ball in his charge at the defense. After 5 minutes on the Dandelions tryline and from a scrum on halfway Tanikawa came off the back of the scrum and popped a pass to halfback Tatauma Muto. Muto took the defense wide, threw a dummy pass, and went over the line to score the first point of the second half. Junpei Shirakawa stepped up to convert the peanlty but was unsuccessful. Score: 25 v 0 to the TGRFC.
A string of penalties and solid play had the Dandelions storming into the Gaijin 22 metre area. A loose pass from Junpei Shirakawa and then a kick to open-field by Mosese Rarasea which was not chased by the kicker despite him being behind most of his team mates was causing some frayed nerves. The Dandelions then went very close with a penalty tap 10 metres out but blew it when the prop turned to give it to his supporting forwards and was penalised for obstruction.
Hard forward grind got the Gaijin back into their opponents 22. In fact they seemed to crash over for a try but the double lines (soccer lines?) on the field seemed to confuse the referee and the try was not given. It didn't matter though as the Gaijin spun it wide soon after and good hands saw the ball go from Richard O'Shea to Hitoshi Chihara to Jo Iwasaki and then onto Shinichiro Nakayama who raced over to score. Junpei Shirakawa converted to finally bag the whole 7 points. Score : 32 v 0.
Shinchiro Nakayama made a strong run soon after and managed to stay standing up in the tackle. He popped a nice pass to Junpei Shirakawa who raced 30 metres, evading some defenders, to score under the posts. Shirakawa converted his own try to make the final score 39 v 0.
The Gaijin had done what they came to do. Two bonus points - one for scoring four tries or more, and another for keeping their opponents scoreless. The score line may show that Dandelions were never in the match but while they didn't really threaten TGRFC's line they tackled very well all day and didn't slip off too many tackles. The constant wave of Gaijin attacks from their big forwards often created the extra man when needed and some good angled running, from Mosese Rarasea and Hitoshi Chihara in the backs created holes. The improving Ryo Takahashi had his best game for the club out on the wing. The Gaijin forwards showed a lot of energy in their efforts to get to the ruck quickly and made some powerful charges. They were well lead by captain Richard O'Shea and Lachlan Ainley. Flanker Motoki Mitsuyori also had a great game with a lot of barging runs.
Man of the Match was given to Takashi Tanikawa, who was tireless at the back of the Gaijin scrum, and made a lot of valuable metres with the ball in hand. There was no Goat of the Game award as nobody made any glaring stupid errors.
Now the Gaijin just have to wait 'til December the 8th to find out how the other two front-runners fare. It might be a nervous wait for some because the other results are out of their hands, but they did everything they could today.
SCORE : TGRFC 39 (Takashi Tanikawa 2, Hitoshi Chihara 1, Liam Ramshaw 1, Takashi Muto 1, Shinichiro Nakayama 1, Junpei Shirakawa 1 tries; M. Rarasea 0/4, J. Shirakawa 2/3) Dandelions 0
Man of the Match: Takashi Tanikawa
1. Lachlan Ainley (Australia)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
4. Richard O'Shea (c) (Wales)
5. Jesse Takahashi (USA)
6. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
7. Motoki Mitsuyori (Japan)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Tatsumo Muto (Japan)
10. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
11. Ryo Tanaka (Japan)
12. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
13. Shinichiro Nakayama (vc) (Japan)
14. Sota Kaneko (Japan)
15. Junpei Shirakawa (Japan)
Reserves used: Takeo Honda (Japan), Andy Tindall (England), Aurelien Anatolinez (France), Jo Iwasaki (Japan), Yamagen (Japan)