Dateline: May 31st, 2015
The Tokyo Gaijin RFC found Kurumi RFC a hurdle to high to handle in their quarter final match-up of the 2015 Tokyo Cup. Despite having won all three games in their pool rounds Kurumi were a step up but the Gaijin did do better than last year when they were beaten by the same team 69 v 0. This time around the result was 33 v 17 with the Gaijin outscored five tries to three.
The Kurumi club train three times a week and the Gaijin train on Sundays when they don't have matches. That in itself would suggested a mis-match would be on the cards. Kurumi displayed superior fitness and team-work but were made to work hard for their win. A missed tackle here and there and a few dubious refereeing decisions would be all the difference in the end.
The Gaijin forwards matched their counterparts but it was the Kurumi backs that won the game. They showed superior pace, good angles and also won the aerial battle.
Kurumi scored the first try not long after they kicked off and had the Gaijin management worried that Kurumi were going to build another big score against them. It came after they won the first penalty of the game when the Gaijin were caught going off their feet at the ruck. Soon after, the Kurumi right winger kicked the ball through to the 22 metre line and fortuitously managed to regather and spin the ball to the right and his support player raced away to score. The successful conversion had Kurumi leading 7 v 0 after only three minutes.
They were soon attacking the the Gaijin line again and went within metres of scoring but good defense held them out. They continued to dominate territory and launch wave after wave of attack but the Gaijin defensive line held firm.
It wasn't until the 10th minute mark that the Gaijin made their first beak. It was Sota Kaneko who dummied his way through the defense and then put a kick through and forced the Kurumi fullback to 'soccer' it into touch under threat from a good chase.
Soon after the Gaijin looked like scoring after a quick penalty tap saw an overlap in the backs but centre Hitoshi Chihara threw a forward pass and the chance went begging.
In the 14th minute tha Gaijin did finally get the try they were probing for. After a couple of strong scrums and good support play captain Apisai Bati broke from a ruck, knocked off two tacklers, and ran over the tryline to score. Gorka Gerediaga missed the conversion leaving the Gaijin behind 7 v 5.
The Gaijin had weathered the storm and were right back in the game.
In the 20th minute, a strong run by the Kurumi No.13 just inside the Gaijin half knocked away both tacklers in Hitoshi Chihara and Toshinori Minamidate, and one quick ruck later Kurumi would score under the posts and with the successful conversion, extend their lead to 14 v 5.
Gaijin fullback Takuya Ichizono looked to get the Gaijin back in the game with a good 25 metre run but was caught in a good tackle by his opposite number in the last line of defense. The Gaijin continued on the attack and went close to scoring but lost the ball in the rush for the line.
They continued to dominate for a period and won a string of penalties as Kurumi tried hard to get them off their game. The referee lost patience and finally gave Kurumi a team warning for the constant indiscretions. (Some on the sidelines thought a yellow card was overdue !)
The hard work eventually paid off when hooker Liam Ramshaw crashed over the line after a string of carries by his fellow forwards and quick ruck work. Takuya Ichizono converted to bring the score back to a two point margin at 14 v 12 to Kurumi.
The Gaijin now had their heads up high and were showing a renewed confidence. This was exemplified when Takashi Tanikawa broke through straight from the kickoff and his forwards swarmed in behind him when he was caught by the defense. Apisai Bati led his forwards in a series of powerful rolling mauls as the Gaijin pack ate up the metres, but injured his hand in the movement and would only last until halftime before being replaced.
The surge broke down just as it looked like the Gaijin were getting on top in the game. In the 38th minute Gaijin standoff Sota Kaneko dropped the ball cold as it was passed out from a scrum. Kurumi would make him pay for his error. They swung the ball wide making metres up the right side of the field and then scored through their own rolling maul. (Later, certain Gaijin forwards were adamant that it was truck'n'trailer and badly refereed/ignored). The conversion made the halftime score 21 v 12.
This last lapse in concentration from Kaneko would prove costly as the Gaijin would have come into halftime only two points down and on a roll. It was undoubtedly a setback after their strong onslaught towards the end of the half - heads dropped a little. At halftime the senior players tried to lift their team mates and still believed the game was there for the taking. The mood remained positive.
The Gaijin did start the second half positively and were soon on the attack. Five minutes into the half, quick hands through the inside backs from close to the left touchline ended with some forwards out wide and the ball went from prop Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka to lock, and sometime prop, Lachlan Ainley and onto Takashi Tanikawa who broke through to score as Kurumi ran out of defenders. The conversion from Ichizono halfway between the posts and the right sideline was unsuccessful, but the Gaijin were close again at 21 v 17 down.
Kurumi would then run away with the game through two further unanswered tries despite the best efforts of the Gaijin.
The first came in the 13th minute of the half through their speedy backs and once converted made the score 28 v 7.
The final try came in the 34th minute of the half and once again it was their backs that did the damage. They failed with the conversion making the final score 33 v 17.
The Gaijin had entered the game confident but wary after last year's debacle. They had put up a good fight and nobody could doubt their intent. The Gaijin matched their counterparts in the forwards. The backs were slightly out-classed as the bigger Kurumi backs ran with speed and power and passed fluently without any hiccups in their rhythm. The superior fitness of the Kurumi players also showed as the second half wore on and the Gaijin tired.
Kurumi's kicking game was also far superior and may have been the difference in the end. They kicked 4 out of 5 from the tee but were also very good with the ball in open play, often getting long distances with their kicks and kicking well for the corners. They were also adept at the kick and chase and often had the Gaijin backs scrambling to get to kicks that were well chased.
The Gaijin were well led in the forwards by Apisai Bati and his absence in the second half was strongly felt. Lachlan Ainley and Don Tsunaka did their best to impose their physicality on the game and the consistent Takashi Tanikawa had a high work-rate. Liam Ramshaw, making up for the red card he received against Kurumi last year, was Man of tthe Match for the Gaijin with a strong game. He was tireless in both attack and defense and made many strong charges into the eye of the defensive line.
So with the Tokyo Cup for 2015 over for the Gaijin it was time to look ahead to some 'friendlies' and upcoming 10's and 7's tournaments. Maybe the 2016 TGRFC version will make amends.
SCORE: KURUMI RFC 33 ( 5 Tries; 4/5 conversions ) TGRFC 17 (Apisai Bati 1, Liam Ramshaw 1, ??G. Gerdiaga 0/1, T. Ichizono 1/2 conversions)
Man of the Match: Liam Ramshaw
1. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
4. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
5. Lachlan Ainley (Australia)
6. Apisai Bati (Fiji)
7. Dan Worden (NZ)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Alaister Nimmo (England)
10. Sota Kaneko (Japan)
11. Wataru Sato (Japan)
12. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
13. Toshihiro Minamidate (Japan)
14. Ryo (Japan)
15. Takuya Ichizono (Japan)
Reserves: (16) Tommy Nasuno (Japan), (17) Kosuke Yamamoto (Japan), (18) Tsukasa Takasugi (Japan), (19) Daniel Barnett (England), (20) Jone Tora (Fiji), (21) Joffa Harris (Australia), (22) Paul Bertier (France), (23) Akira Yamagen (Japan)