Dateline: 8th March, 2015
With all guns firing! That's how the Tokyo Gaijin RFC knew Mandara (not Mandela but said the same way) would come out in their first Champion's Cup game (aka. Cup Winners Cup). And that's exactly what they did. The Gaijin, putting in a great defensive effort and riding on the individual brilliance of 18 year old Apisai Bati Junior, got home to take the match 19 v 10.
The game, played in drizzle at Hino Motors rugby game was a great spectacle to watch. Mandara are one of the best amateur teams in Tokyo and the Gaijin put in a performance they should be proud of.
Mandara scored first but the Gaijin responded with a try to Apisai Bati Junior, who converted his own try after missing an earlier penalty. The Gaijin would go into halftime with a slender 7 v 5 lead.
The second half turned into a real slugfest. The Gaijin would increase their lead when captain Apisai Bati made a strong break from a lineout ruck. He beat a few would-be tacklers and then offloaded to his son, Junior, who beat the last defender to score under the posts. He skewed the seemingly easy conversion but the Gaijin remained in front 12 v 5.
Mandara then scored a try through their forwards following wave after wave of attack in the Gaijin 22 metre area and a batch of ruck penalties. With the conversion unsuccessful, the Gaijin lead was now just two points with the score at 12 v 10.
Apisai Bati Junior would score the clincher when his indiivdual brilliance got him over the line as he beat a few tacklers and swerved past a few more would-be tacklers to score out on the right flank. His conversion was unsuccesful in what ws an unhappy day for the kickers.. He had earlier missed a penalty from in front 30 metres out, in which he would normally have converted with his eyes closed. The ball was blamed for the below-par kicking as it was apparently too light.
The last 5 minutes were brutal with Mandara launching a barrage of attacks but the Gaijin defense repelled them to hold on and win the game 19 v 10.
Apart from Apisai Bati Junior's heroics, the Gaijin defense had won them the game. Despite some earlier loose tackling the Gaijin tightened up their defense in the second half and kept out wave after wave of Mandara attacks with strong, collaborative defense. Sovita Tui was also explosive in the midfield and pulled off some big hits. Lachlan Ainley, Takashi Tanikawa and Apisai Bati also played strongly. Anthony Monette was safe on debut out on the wing and showed a lot of promise.
Now it's onto the final. The Gaijin will need to play with the same spirit as they did today to stand any chance of a victory as it won't get any easier.
NOTE: The Gaijin were lucky enough to receive the wildcard in Round 1. Today's match was actually round 2 in this knockout tournament between the winners of the various amateur leagues in Tokyo. Mandara RFC were the winners of the Tama League while the TGRFC won the Shuto league.
SCORE: TGRFC 19 (Apisa Bati Jnr 3 tries,+ 2/3 conversions + 0/2 penalties) Mandara RFC 10 (2 tries, 0/2 conversions)
Man of the Match : Apisai Bati Junior (Sovita Tui sculled the beer as he was Runner up in the voting and Junior is not of legal age here in Japan)
1. Lachlan Ainley (Australia)
2. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
3. Kosuke Yamamato (Japan)
4. Joffa Harris (Australia)
5. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
6. Apisa Bati (c) (Fiji)
7. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
8. Glen Amos (England)
9. Eamonn Murphy (vc) (Ireland)
10. Sota Kaneko (Japan)
11. Anthony Monette (USA)
12. Apisa Bati Junior (Fiji)
13. Sovita Tui (Fiji)
14. Wataru Sato (Japan)
15. Toshinori Minamidate (Japan)
Reserves: William Baker (Wales), Paul Bertier (France), Inigo Carro (England), Hidenobu Sato (Japan), Ayato Matsuura (Japan)