Timeline: May 10th, 2015.
Round 2 of the 2015 Tokyo Cup was played at Kasai Rinkai Koen Sports Ground and saw the Tokyo Gaijin RFC take on All Jin Jan RFC.(AJJ). AJJ had beaten Donkeys RFC by an even larger score than the Gaijin had beaten them last round and had also put up a strong battle in their last encounter in the Shuto League in 2014. It was a hot day for May but beautiful conditions for watching rugby.
The Tokyo Gaijin RFC were missing vice-captain and halfback Eamonn Murphy but had the very capable Tatsuma Muto taking his place. Fijian centre Sovita Tui was back in the squad after injury had kept him out of rugby for the past month and this would also bolster the Gaijin backline. Paul Bertier was also returning to the squad after an injury layoff to try to make up for the loss of New Zealand flanker Daniel Worden to injury and Sota Kaneko was replacing another injured Kiwi in standoff Max Manson.
The TGRFC started positively with with strong phase play getting them deep into AJJ territory. A strong scrum allowed No.8 Takashi Tanikawa to hare off on a run down the blind but a bad pass to Hitoshi Chihara blew a certain try. Good defense kept AJJ pinned in their 22 metre area and an attempted clearance kick by them ricochetted off a Gaijin player's legs and the ball bounced along the ground behing the AJJ players. Wataru Sato raced through, picked up the ball, and dived over the tryline for the opening points of the game. Sota Kaneko bombed the kick but the TGRFC had taken an early lead of 5 v 0 in just the 7th minute.
The kickoff was dropped by the Gaijin and AJJ had their first real chance to do something as they had had limited possession thus far. They went close to scoring but desperate Gaijin defense kept them out.
At the 15 minute mark Gaijin captain Apisai Bati was given a yellow card and sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes for knocking down the ball at the side of a ruck with AJJ on attack, in what the referee deemed a cycnical play.
At this stage in the game both teams were feeling the early summer heat but the Gaijin seemed awfully slow to get to the breakdown. At one stage there were three rucks in a row where not a single Gaijin forward made it to the ruck. They were certainly missing Dan Worden's speed to the breadown.
The Gaijin went within one metre of scoring in the 24th minute but a mixture of loose play, sloppy handling and desperation from AJJ ruined the chance.
Not long after, and at the other end, Gaijin fullback Toshihiro Minamidate saved a try and ripped the ball away from the AJJ player when his forward team mates were nowhere to be seen.
In the 29th minute, Apisai Bati, back form the bad boy's chair, took a quick tap penalty just outside the AJJ 22 and scattered the defenders with a strong charge into the teeth of the defense. He then passed the ball off to Tsukasa Takasugi who crashed over the tryline. Sota Kaneko failed with the conversion to leave the Gaijn leading 10 v 0.
In the 34th minute AJJ went blind on halfway, where there were no Gaijin forwards, who were all bunched to the right. The AJJ centre zipped around four defenders to go over and score. The conversion was unsuccessful and the Gaijin had a slender lead at 10 v 5.
Takuya Ichizono was brought on for the injured Wataru Sato and was instantly into the action.
The Gaijin blew the kickoff again and AJJ almost went straight through to score but once again, last-ditch defense kept their tryline intact. The Gaijin eventually worked their way out of trouble through a good break by Sovita Tui. He passed off to supporting countryman Apisai Bati and then backed up to receive the ball again. As they surged into the AJJ half the ball was passed onto Toshihiro Minamidate and finally to Takuya Ichizono who raced away to score. Good hands, good support, great try. Kaneko failed with the conversion to leave the scoreline 15 v 5 to the Gaijin.
AJJ were straight back into the Gaijin 22 after the Gaijin messed up their third kickoff in a row. After a few phases and a lack of commitment in defense from the Gaijin, AJJ went over to score in the 39th minute. They were successful with the conversion and made the halftime score 15 v 12.
The Gaijin were in front but would need to shore up their defense in the second half. They always seemed capable of scoring but couldn't keep a commanding lead as they leaked tries too easily. Gorka Gerediaga, who is generally good under the high ball, was brought on for Daniel Barnett at halftime to try to solve the kickoff woes.
The all important first try of the second half went to the Gaijin just four minutes into the half. No.8 Takashi Tanikawa broke from a scrum on the AJJ 22 and a string of passes saw the ball finish in the hands of speedster Takuya Ichizono who raced down the flank and around to the posts to score. Sota Kaneko converted and there was now a bit of breathing space for the Gaijin. Score: 22 v 12.
The Gaijin increased their lead 4 minutes later with Sovita Tui involved twice in the move and giving a final short pass to Hitoshi Chihara who charged through to score under the posts. With the successful conversion from Kaneko the Gaijin now led 29 v 12.
The lead increased further at the 53rd minute mark when Takuya Ichizono got his third try for the day after quick hands along the backline gave him space to race away to score in the corner. Kaneko failed to convert leaving the score at 34 v 12 to the Gaijin.
AJJ pegged back the Gaijin lead with two unconverted tries, both coming from Gaijin mistakes. The first was from a kick through. Two Gaijin players fiddled around near the bouncing ball but failed to jump on it before a chaser came from nowhere to dive on it. The second came after Hitoshi Chihara tried to clear a kick from his own line but only managed to get it charged down for an easy try. The score was now 34 v 22 but AJJ still needed two converted tries to take the lead.
The Gaijin came back with two more tries of their own. The first was a nice runaway try from Hitoshi Chihara, making up for his earlier mistake. The second was also a runaway try with captain Apisai Bati racing 40 metres to score down the right touchline. The first was converted, the second wasn't Score: 46 v 22.
AJJ then pulled a try back following a break and a kick forward by their winger and he won the race to the ball. Score 46 v 27.
The roller-coaster scoring continued when Paul Bertier finished off earlier breaks by Toshihiro Minamidate and Gorka Gerediaga with a beautiful swandive to score to the right of the posts. Hitoshi Chihara was on the money with his second successive conversion and the Gaijin now led 53 v 27.
A great tackle by fullback Toshinori Minamidate failed to prevent AJJ getting the last try of the game to finish the scoring at 53 v 32 to the Gaijin.
While the Gaijin had plenty of opportunities in the game and always looked in control they allowed their opponents to return serve on the scoreboard too soon. The Gaijin set-pieces were strong but their ruck and maul was poor with unecessary penalties and poor security allowing AJJ to poach balls that should have been secured. Their on-ball work has to be more furious and they need to get more bodies to the breakdown quicker if they wish to go further in this competition. Defense was also poor at times and there seemed to be a lack of talk in the crucial 9-10 positions. Kicking at goal was also substandard from both teams.
SCORE: TGRFC 53 (Takuya Ichizono 3, Hitoshi Chihara 2, Wataru Sato1, Tsukasa Takasugi 1, Apisai Bati 1, Paul Bertier 1 tries; Sota Kaneko 2/ 7, Hitoshi Chihara 2/2 conversions) All Jin Jan RFC 32 (6 tries; 1/6 conversions)
Man of the Match: Takashi Tanikawa
Goat of the Match: Apisai Bati (For yellow card)
1. Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
2. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
3. Tsukasa Takasugi (Japan)
4. Jesse Takahashi (USA)
5. Daniel Barnett (England)
6. Apisai Bati (C) (Fiji)
7. Glen Amos (England)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Takuma Muto (Japan)
10. Sota Kaneko (Japan)
11. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
12. Sovita Tui (Fiji)
13. Alex Moule (England)
14. Wataru Sato (Japan)
15. Toshihiro MInamidate (Japan)
Reserves: (16) Tommy Nasuno (Japan), (17) Gorka Gerediaga (Basque), (18) Joffa Harris (Australia), (19) Paul Bertier (France), (20) Ryo Takahashi (Japan), (21) Takuya Ichizono (Japan)