Timeline: July 11th & 12th
This year the trip didn't start very well. The first group of players, departing Saturday morning were divided into two groups. One group was with Murray Clarke, in his car, and the other group was going in a rented car driven by Don Tanaka. Well, Don is a really nice guy and a good prop but, he is not known for his punctuality. The group waiting at Shibuya station was still relaxed and unconcerned when he still hadn't shown up 15 minutes after the meeting time, and considering the traffic would hopefully be still fluid at 7:15 in the morning. After a few message exchanges over social media, the group started to get worried because it was verging on being too late (and in consequence, the team could not join the first match of the 7's tournament). Luckily Don eventually showed up, and the second van departed about 40 minutes late, but the team arrived in Sugadaira in time to particpate in the 7's tournament.
The Sugadaira tour consisted of two parts: the 7' tournament on the Saturday and a 15's match on the Sunday. As usual, the Gaijin squad was composed of mostly forwards. The following team were the brave 7's fighters:
Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
Gorka Gerdiaga (Basque Country)
Paul Bertier (France)
Nikola Pavesic (Croatia)
Glen Amos (England)
Murray Clarke (NZ)
Michi Koch (Germany)
Takuya Ichizono (Japan)
Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)
Angus Brown (Scotland)
After a great performance in the first stage, where the Gaijin won all 3 pool matches playing real 7's rules, we reached the finals. The other finalist was All JIn Jan, the team that eliminated us last year.
The final was as tough as we expected. The Gaijin scored the first couple of tries and thought they were going to be tournament winners. That overconfidence opened the way for AJJ to turn around and score and put the Gaijin in trouble. Time was running out and AJJ were already tasting the Cup, but the Gaijin never gave up and after a great connection between forwards and backs on the last play, a highway was opened up for Takuya Ichizono to score the try that gave the Championship to the Gaijin.
After the games, the team attended the Opening Ceremony Party related to Sunday's matches. The ceremony, as usual, offered All-you-can-eat & drink and also various raffle prizes.
On this tour the Gaijin were especially lucky in the raffle and 3 members (Paul, Michi & Angus) won a box of lettuces each. Lettuces are a prominent crop in Sugadaira and they are delicious. That was a great beginning to a great night. After filling our stomachs with food and quenching our thirst with beer, we returned to the hotel. While we waited for the last members to join our tour, we set a Welcome Party Committee in the Hotel hall just off the lobby.
Once all the members of the tour were at the hotel, the Welcome Party started followed by the Sunday Match Committee to discuss strategy, special movements, starting members...and of course, following Captain's rules, we just drank non-alcoholic beer and apple juice.
On Sunday when we woke up it was cloudy and rain chances were over our heads, just the opposite of the gorgeous Saturday. An early and quick breakfast gave us the energy we needed and we dashed (by car) to the field to attend the Opening Ceremony. We had to be on the field at 8:00am, wearing team uniform. As usual, many speeches and thanks filled the next 30 minutes and after that we were ready to move to the pitch where our match would be held.
Just with 15 brave warriors in the Gaijin ranks, we faced a quite well coordinated team from Gunma. Not so many things to say about the match. Even when we received some support from AJJ (3 players joined our match) we couldn't do so many things to get the victory. Massive hangovers and members playing in different positions, was the perfect mix for defeat. Also, rain didn't help either.
Anyway, we had a lot of fun and victory on the Saturday gave us plenty of happiness. The team feeling of the weekend was really good, as for once we won the 7's tournament. It was sad to be defeated on the Sunday but, this time we can say "Who cares", hahahah... (Editor's note: Gorka is unaware that we have won the Sugadaira 7's Tournament before)
The goal for next year will be to win on both days.
1. Gorka Gerdiaga (Basque)
2. Tomo Setoguchi (Japan)
3. Tsuanki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
4. Michi Koch (Germany)
5. Joffa Harris (Australia)
6. Glen Amos (England)
7. Jeremy Burns (USA)
8. Murray Clarke (NZ)
9. Takuya Ichizono (Japan)
10. Angus Brown (Scotland)
11. Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)
12. Alex Moule (England)
13. Nikola Pavesic (Croatia)
14. Paul Bertier (France)
15. Jo Iwaski (Japan)