Dateline: April 26th, 2015
The Tokyo Gaijin RFC turned up at Kasai Rinkai Koen Rugby Field for their first round clash with Donkeys RFC hoping to start the Tokyo Cup better than they did last year. A full squad, a large group of helpers and fans, and everyone almost on time meant the team got off to a positive start. At 1pm Donkeys RFC kicked off and it was 'game on'.
Soon after receiving the kickoff the Gaijin got into Donkeys half after a clever kick from captain Apisai Bati. Dan Worden, out of the game for 6 months with health issues, won a lineout against the throw and a good run from Bati got the Gaijin close to the Donkeys 22 metre line where they won a ruck penalty. Two pods of forwards charged up the ball in succession and the Gaijin went close in just the 3rd minute but the ball was dropped and the early points went begging.
The Gaijin continued the pressure though and with the Donkeys throwing two lineouts 'not straight' the Gaijin continued to dominate possession and territory. From a scrum the ball was passed blindside to fullback Toshinori Minamidate who went within 3 metres of the try-line. A quick recycle saw halfback Eamonn Murphy dive over to score in the right corner. Alex Moule failed with the wide conversion but at the 6 minute mark the Gaijin had the start they were looking for with a 5 v 0 lead.
The Donkeys responded in kind and went close to scoring themselves soon after with some ordinary defense from the Gaijin after the kickoff. Two penalties in succession saw the Gaijin work their way well into the Donkeys half to a lineout about 30 metres out from the Donkeys tryline. The 'banana' call from the lineout saw captain Apisai Bati sprint away almost untouched to score a 30 metre try. This time Wataru Sato failed to convert and the Gaijin led 10 v 0.
A couple of blindside runs almost led to further tries to the Gaijin but the inside man didn't pass the ball on and chances were squandered. Good ruck work from the Gaijin kept the pressure on and they hovered around the opposition's 22 metre area until a nice dummy from Eamonn Murphy saw him make a nice break and then beat the fullback with another dummy to score. Alex Moule missed the conversion to leave the score at 15 v 0.
After 10 minutes of play in the Gaijin half and some good last-ditch defense the Gaijin kept their line intact and then a breakout run by Toshinori Minamidate got the Gaijin into the Donkeys half. The ball then went to Apisai Bati for further good metres then back to Minamidate and then on to Takuya Ichizono to score halfway between the posts and the corner flag. Moule failed to convert again but the Gaijin had a healthy 20 v 0 lead, which they held until halftime..
The Gaijin scored next to extend their lead to 25 v 0 with Moule failing with another conversion.
10 minutes into the second half some changes were made with fresh reserves Tommy Nasuno, Daniel Barnett, Anthony Monette, Hitoshi Chihara and Joffa Harris coming on to the field.
Not long after, Hitoshi Chihara broke through the line to score with one of his first touches. He failed with the conversion to leave the score at 30 v 0 to the Gaijin.
The try-fest continued for the Gaijin when captain Apisai Bati broke down the blind side and passed to Takuya Ichizono who kicked ahead. Bati won the race to the ball and regathered to score under the posts. The Gaijin were finally successssful with a conversion when Hitoshi Chihara nailed it from in front. Score: 37 v 0 to the Gaijin.
The Gaijin let the kickoff bounce and were then under pressure in their own 22 but Minamidate made a nice break and passed it off to Takuya Icihizono on the inside to get deep into the Donkey's half.and then Liam Ramshaw made a charge at the line but was pulled up short and then the ball was turned over by the Donkeys.
Wataru Sato then stopped a try with a big tackle but sloppy defense let the Donkeys openside flanker run in for their first try. They failed with the conversion but were finally on the scoreboard at 37 v 5.
Apisai Bati extended the Gaijin lead with his third try near the left corner which Chihara converted making the score 44 v 5.
Chihara and Takashi Tanikawa were heavily involved in the next try which also went to captain Apisai Bati as he raced 40 metres down the right flank and with Chihara's conversion the Gaijin had skipped out to a large 51 v 5 lead.
The final try went to Hitoshi Chihara when he broke free from a ruck to race away and score. Sota Kaneko failed with the conversion making the final score 56 v 5.
It was a convincing win for the Tokyo Gaijin Rugby Club and a great start to the 2015 Tokyo Cup. The forwards did well as a unit and the scrum was very strong. Apisai Bati extended his lead at the top of the tryscorers list with 4 wonderful tries, but was pipped for Man of the Match by tireless number 7 Dan Worden who was a real jackal at the breakdown and made many copybook grass-cutter tackles. It was a blessing for the team to have Dan back after his 6 month break from the game as his speed to the breakdowwn has been sorely missed.
In the backs, vice-captain Eamonn Murphy led his side around well from halfback and scored two cheeky halfback tries. Max manson did well at standoff in his first game in 10 months after injury and work commitments had kept him busy. He tackled strongly and ran the ball hard and was a good steady voice in the middle. Alex Moule did well at centre in his first run for the Gaijin and Hitoshi Chihara made an excellent impact when he came onto the field in the second half. Takuya Ichizono also did very well in his first game for the Gaijin and adds some much needed pace to the backline.
SCORE: TGRFC 56 (Apisai Bati 4, Eamonn Murphy 2, Hitoshi Chihara 2, Takuya Ichizono 1, Mystery tryscorer 1 tries; Alex Moule 0/4, Wataru Sato 0/1, Hitoshi Chihara 3/3, Sota Kaneko 0/1 conversions) Donkeys RFC 5 (1 try; 0/1 conversions)
Man of the Match: Dan Worden
Debuts: Takuya Ichizono, Alex Moule, Daniel Barnett
1. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
4. Jesse Takahashi (USA)
5. Touch Roy (Australia)
6. Apisai Bati (C) (Fiji)
7. Dan Worden (NZ)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Eamonn Murphy (vc) (Ireland)
10. Max Manson (NZ)
11. Takuya Ichizono (Japan)
12. Alex Moule (England)
13. Kohei Suzuki (Japan)
14. Wataru Sato (Japan)
15. Toshinori Minamidate (Japan)
Reserves: (16) Tommy Nasuno (Japan), (17) Lachlan Ainley (Australia), (18) Tsukasa Takasugi (Japan), (19) Daniel Barnett (England), (20) Joffa Harris (Australia), (21) Sota Kaneko (Japan), (22) Hitoshi Chihara (Japan), (23) Anthony Monette (USA)