Dateline: March 22nd, 2015
The Champion's League, also known as the Cup Winners Cup, is a competition between the winners of all the amateur Leagues in Tokyo. The Tokyo Gaijin RFC had done marvelously well to make it to the Champion's League Final beating Mandara RFC along the way. They were up against Blackeyes RFC in the final in what was to be a tough and uncompromising game to decide the best amateur team in Tokyo.
The Blackeyes were fielding a number of ring in-players (and to the Editors knowledge are a composite of two strong teams, Rocco RFC being one of them), as were the Gaijin. The Gaijin were doing this out of necessity as they had 9 regular players in the Philippines for the Manila 10's. It so happened that Blackeyes ring-ins were probably better., with quite a few guys from semi-pro team IBM. Younger, fitter, faster, etc. And it showed from the outset. Where the Gaijin were able to play to their strengths, they had great results but in the end it was the lack of cohesion between their players and the prolific errors that prevented them from a better showing.
Blackeyes kicked off and immediately it was clear the Gaijin had communication issues. The ball was spilled backward and they were forced back into their 22 line. Their kick for clearance was charged down with the ball going dead - they were clearly not composed. A short back and forth passage of kicks saw the Gaijin hoof the ball over the halfway but with limited chasing and a broken back line, the Blackeyes fullback ran clean through a wide gap to draw the Gaijin left wing and pass to his right wing who went over untouched. First strike to the Blackeyes and the Gaijin were down 0-7.
During the next period of play the Gaijin made some good inroads on attack through the useful running of fullback Nogi and his linking with Apisai Bati who had a strong game all round. Takashi Tanikawa also featured in some ruck work and had a lengthy run up the left touch line when he broke blind side off a messy scrum. On that note the Gaijin scrum was not stable throughout the match meaning that neither he at No.8 nor halfback Eamonn Murphy rarely had clean ball to work with.
With the wind coming sideways off Tokyo Bay it was hard to argue the Blackeyes had any advantage but their kicking from penalties and from hand was superior. The Gaijin kick reception was flawed in that they were letting the ball bounce even when they had the chance to take it on the full. This led to numerous counter attacking opportunities for the Blackeyes and their second try came after one such kick that saw play go suddenly from Gaijin attack on the Blackeyes 22 line all the way back to defending their own line due to one simple knock on. After a series of attempts to get through a solid defensive line the Blackeyes went over in the left corner through their left wing.
This was quickly followed by another try to the right wing after more errors, including the Gaijin having their lineout stolen. Thus far the Blackeye wingers were enjoying their day and the Gaijin were down 0-17.
It didn't stop there as the Balckeyes once again used their ability to move the ball wide and switch from left to right and back again to create massive gaps in the Gaijin line. Their left wing scored the next try and they went up by 22 to nil.
The errors continued throughout the first half and any momentum the Gaijin gained was easily snuffed out by knock ons, lost line outs and poor passing. But they never quit and despite the error count they actually fared well with most of the team feeling they could have had the better of the Blackeyes if not for those errors. It was a series of penalties that went the Gaijin way on the half way line that were tapped every time to force the opposition into a retreat. Finally it was big Mauola 'Mau' Sasulu, an ex-Gaijin player now with IBM. who broke through the line and stormed up to the 5 meter line for the ball to be recycled out wide to big Fijian Joe Nawaquaavanua to score wide and run around toward the posts for the easy conversion. At least the Gaijin were on the board and the score was 7-22.
Mauola continued to play well, receiving kick offs, tackling and being involved in most attacking movements and while the Gaijin continued to lose possession at the wrong times they battled their way back up toward the Blackeyes 22 again and from a ruck captain Apisai Bati was able to spot the inside gap and go straight through to score under the posts and up to 14-22 right before halftime.
Halftime score 27 v 14 to Blackeyes.
It was clear that if the Gaijin could reduce the error count and score early in the second half then this game was far from over. Serious leg injuries to both Fijian centres Mosese Rarasea and Sovita Tui had reduced the Gaijin first string team further though so the second half was on the shoulders of the bench. To counter that ex-captain Lachie Ainley arrived at half time to rally the lads and add some more energy.
Unfortunately it was the Blackeyes who scored first. Rather than continue their wide attacks they went to line out drives to gain advantage and scored in the right corner after just a few minutes play. They scored the next two tries in similar fashion driving off a line out and then from an ensuing scrum they drove over in the same location, with the second try coming from another push over maul. Down 14-42 it was starting to look ominous for the Gaijin.
Despite the score line expanding the Gaijin never quit the fight and were able to round out the afternoon with four more tries. The first of the second half tries came after a huge burst up field by big Joe Nawaquaavanua, who broke tackle after tackle, and off loaded to standoff Hamamoto for him to go through in the corner. Joe featured in the next try as well and finished it off under the posts. Full back Nogi scored the next after taking a big gap in the Blackeye defense after a good run by Apisai Bati who clashed heads in an accident that ended his day on the field. It looked more serious than it was with a lot of blood coming from a gash on his nose and it was a shame to pick up the injury in what was the last 5-6 minutes of play. It was the Gaijin who scored the last try of the day with their fly half Hamamoto cutting through another huge gap in the defense to go in wide on the right side of the posts.
While the Gaijin had scored 4 second half tries the Blackeyes had also added considerably to their total and the final result was 34-63.
Special mention goes to the support crew who helped put the day together, in particular Yoshihiro Sato and Yamagen-san who as always made it a successful and well organized day out. On the field it was the back row of big Joe Nawaquavanua, Apisai Bati and Takashi Tanikawa who stood out in the loose and the #10 Hamamoto and full back Nogi for the backs. However the Man of the Match award was given to big Mauola ' Mau' Susulu for his consistent effort in the tight, and general play. While he made a few errors, like the rest of his team, he was always in the thick of the action, taking a lot of kicks and crashing the ball up all day long to good effect. We wish him well in his IBM trials next weekend.
SCORE: Blackeyes RFC 63 (10 tries, 5/10 conversions; 1/1 penalties) TGRFC 34 (Joe Nawaquavanua 2, Hamamoto 2, Apisai Bati 1, Nogi 1 tries; 2/6 conversions)
Man of the Match: Mauola 'Mau' Sasulu
1. Mitsuhiro Noguchi (Japan - Blue Socks)
2. Sakai (Japan - KomabaWMM)
3. Yamada (Japan - Takadanobaba Noside Club)
4. Mauola Sasulu (IBM - Samoa)
5. Tetsu Kumagai (Japan - Blue Socks)
6. Apisa Bati (c) (Fiji)
7. Joe Nawaquavanua (Fiji)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Eamonn Murphy (vc) (Ireland)
10. Hamamoto (Japan-KomabaWMM)
11. Ayato Matsuura (Japan)
12. Sovi Tui (Fiji)
13. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
14. Anthony Monette (USA)
15. Nogi (Japan - KomabaWMM)
Reserves: Kousuke Yamamoto (Japan), Kim (Korea - Koryo), Lachlan Ainley (Australia), Dan Worden (New Zealand), Glen Amos (England), Joseph Vanualailai (Fiji), Junpei Shirakawa (Japan - IBM), Akira Yamagen (Japan), (23) Paul Bertier (France), Dave Kelver (USA), Max Manson (NZ)