Shinjuku Jack 6 Tokyo Gaijin 31
The first half of this game offered neutrals the intriguing spectacle of perhaps the worst forty minutes of rugby played by any team anywhere in the universe, ever. You really had to be there. Unfortunately, among those on the sidelines, manager Joffa Harris can hardly be described as neutral. Not a bunny, not happy.
Against a spirited but underpowered Shinjuku Jack side, the Gaijin contrived to be 6-nil down at the break. A true optimist might say that Shinjuku never looked like scoring a try, the lineout again functioned efficiently, and the Gaijin were playing against a buffeting wind. Luckily, particularly after the post-match kegs kindly supplied by the Jacks, everyone was suddenly an optimist.
Here?s the silver lining: the Gaijin never panicked, and with the wind at their back in the second half the pack made their kilograms sing, putting together a series of controlled and unstoppable drives. Ironically, it was the lightest man on the field, Takeshi Takeda, who darted over from the back of a rolling maul to open the scoring.
After that, it was hard work for Shinjuku. There are only so many times a player under eleven stone can tackle Mauro Sauco. The powerful Gaijin forwards turned the screw as Heats Devlin and Rob Reinebach provided the go-forward the Gaijin badly needed. I can?t honestly remember who scored from the next maul - Takayuki, maybe, or Yukio, or perhaps Mark Pearson, any one of the front row who were now beginning to walk Shinjuku off the ball. When Blair Parkin came on for the hard-tackling Niall Conlon, he took a long pass from Beard and dummied his way over from 20 metres in a demonstration of clinical midfield finishing. Then there was another maul try, as Chris Lucas made his presence felt as an impact player, and shortly before full-time replacement half-back Takashi squirmed his way over like a human weevil.
As the coaches always say - we can move on from this. Specifically, to the semi-finals at Kizuuchi Field which better suits the Gaijin game-plan (look after the ball, run, pass, catch, score points - just about covers it). However, the Gaijin will need to improve considerably on this performance to make any further headway in the competition.
Many thanks, as always, to the Gaijin?s loyal support crew. For legal reasons, I?ve been asked to point out that no-one not actually on the pitch during Sunday?s first half is held in any way responsible for the team?s abject and embarrassing on-field performance.
Man of the match: Rob Reinebach
Goat of the match: everyone on the pitch for the first forty minutes.
Thong of the match ? Jerry Brady/Heats Devlin