Dateline: December 1st, 2013
The New Zealand Ambassadors Cup, sponsored by the New Zealand Embassy, is an annual playoff that pits the best players of the Shuto League teams against the best players of the Tama League teams. It is traditionally played at the well-catered Inagi Stadium (yes, we get hot showers & there is a grandstand). The Tama League is quite strong with many of their teams playing in 1st Division Tokyo Cup but the Shuto League has had the 'wood' on them over the past 3 or 4 years. The Old Boys team has won every game since that division's inception 5 years ago. The Shuto League B Team has traditionally struggled to overcome their rivals and the Shuto A Team has enjoyed victory over the past three years.
The Old Boys (over 35's) game kicked off at 11:00am with the older of the old boys playing in the first half. Some of these blokes truly are old with a couple into their 60's. Yamagen, the Captain for the day, was the only TGRFC representative in the backs with forwards Joffa Harris & Apisai Bati sharing the half. The Shuto Old Boys held the territorial dominance but those 'old hands' don't catch as well as they used to and many plays broke down. Shuto scored first but Tama came back witth a try of their own. Shuto scored another to go into halftime up 17 v 7.
The second half was all the Shuto League as they brought on their big guns - at least bigger guns than the Tama League had - including Tokyo Gaijn players Tsukasa Takasugi at prop, Gaz Dalrymple at lock, Eamonn Murphy at halfback, & Jo Iwaski at centre. Yamagen continued at standoff and Apisai Bati & Joffa Harris played 6 & 8 respectively.
The Shuto OB's ran away with the game in the second half scoring 6 unanswered tries to win 55 v 7. All the Gaijin players played strongly with Joffa Harris & Apisai Bati sharing the Man of the Match Award.
(L) The Gaijin reps Gaz Dalrymple, Apisa Bati, Jo Iwasaki, Yamagen, Eamonn Murphy, Joffa Harris (Tsukasa Takasugi - Missing) (R) MVPs Apisai Bati & Joffa Harris hold the OB's Cup aloft.
The 'B' Team kicked off at 12:45pm with Tokyo gaijinn RFC reps Takeshi Koba in the front row, Motoki Mitsuyori in the loose forwards & Hitoshi Chihara at inside centre and captain. On the bench were hooker Aurelien Artinolez and lock Andy Tindall. Gaijin forward Gorka Gerediaga was also chosen to represent the Shuto League but had to answer the call of duty and head into work so that he can get that stubbrn visa fixed up. By halftime the Shuto B's were down 14 v 5 and staring down a big loss as the Tama side looked too strong. but a good fight back in the second half with their big No.8 scoring two tries enabled them to score 26 unanswered points to win 31 v 14. I'd like to think it was due to the inpact of fresh Gaijin reserves Andy Tindall & Aurelien Artinolez.
Winning 'B' Team captain Hitoshi Chihara
The winning Shuto League 'B' Team
So two down and one to go.
The 'A' Team game began at 2:15pm and once again there were plenty of Tokyo Gaijin RFC reps. Tsukasa Takasugi (yes, fresh from a half with the Old Boys) and Takayuki Kitajima shared a half each at prop, Tomohiro Setoguchi was the other prop, Gaijin vice-captain Shinichiro Nakayama was at 7, Toshi Miyano was captain and standoff and Junpei Shirakawa was on one wing.
The game was a tight, torrid affair with both teams giving no quarter. The Shuto A team went into halftime up 12 v 7. The second half was more of the same with some excellent rugby on display. The Tama Select team scored a try with 5 minutes to go to make the scores 17 v 17. That left a tense last 5 minutes with some drunken yobbos (were they wearing Gaijin apparel ?) in the crowd yelling strong words of support and giving it to the referee for any perceived mistakes - but we all know referees don't make mistakes!
The Shuto League team earned a penalty out in front of the sticks 40 metres out with 30 seconds to go. Their kicker came up to cooly slot the winning penalty to wrap up the game and give them a tight 20 v 17 victory.
A team reps: Tsukasa, Toshi, Junpei, Shin, Tomohiro, Takayki. You'll notice the lack of foreign faces with many of them making themselves unavailable. Hopefully that attitude will change next year.
So....3 v 0 to the Shuto League over the Tama League - only the second time in history. See you Tama boys next year.
It was good to note that the Shuto League had faith in Tokyo Gaijin players with the three teams being captained by Gaijin players: OB's - Yamagen; 'B' Team: Hitoshi Chihara; 'A' Team - Toshi Miyano.
Players moved on to a Presentation night and then a further drinking party where some managed to get 'smashed' on amber fluids.
Winning captain, Toshi Miyano with the Chairman of the Shuto League.