Dateline: 15th November, 2015
The final round of the 2015 Shuto League saw the Tokyo Gaijin RFC come up against Olivers RFC at the picturesque Tatsumi Rugby Ground. The Gaijin needed to win, and win well, to take out the Shuto Leaue title. They were equal top with Koryo RFC, with both teams having won every game and playing out a draw between them, but Koryo had superior bonus points and a better 'for and against'. The Gaijin players knew they needed to keep Olivers RFC scoreless to get a bonus point and score four tries to get another, but they didn't know that they had to win by 60 points, with the management deciding to keep that secret so as not to create unnecessary pressure.
The Gaijin started promisingly when captain Apisai Bati scored in the 5th minute with the 'banana' move from a line-out 10 metres into the Olivers half. After taking the ball at the front of the line-out he rounded the winger with 'Twinkle Toes' and raced the rest of the way to score in the corner. He may be 45 but he has still got it. The wide conversion was missed by Dan Benson setting the tone for a horrible day of kicking for the Gaijin.
Takashi Tanikawa scored the next try after a strong run from the back of the scrum to increase the Gaijin lead to 10 v 0 after Benson was slightly wide with the kick.
The tries kept coming when Takuya Ichizono kicked to the left and Jaimeson Musich was first to the loose ball and zoomed away from the defense to score. Benson failed with the conversion. Score: 15 v 0.
From a scrum on the Gaijin 22, and following three phases of forward play, the right channel opened up for Toshinori Minamidate, showing great speed, to race away and score from halfway. Benson again failed with the conversion. Score: 20 v 0.
The Gaijin then survived an attack on their own line when the Olivers standoff put through a grubber which was touched down in goal. Their scrum then managed a turnover, then four sequences of fluid 'pops' and passes allowed them to get back into Olivers' half.
The 5th try to the Gaijin came about because of their scrum dominance. Gaijin halfback Takuya Ichizono stole the ball from an Olivers scrum feed. Three phases of play by the forwards and a 50 metre run by Jaimeson 'Jetshoes' Musich ended with John Simpson running the last 15 metres to score next to the posts. Benson again narrowly missed the conversion. Score 25 v 0.
The next try was to break the Gaijin hearts and take the Shuto League title from them, and came about from an error. The Olivers' standoff again put through a well-placed grubber kick. Jay Leroy, sweeping in from the wing as cover, attempted to kick the ball dead when all he had to do was fall on it. He had an air swing, completely missing the ball, and all the chaser had to do was dive on it to score. Leroy later acknowledged that he didn't know you could do that, showing up his lack of experience. Score: 25 v 5.
The Gaijin got back in the groove with a 6th try coming after a sweeping counterstrike. After defusing a kick, the Gaijin counter-attack was finished off by Takuya Ichizono. Score: 30 v 5.
Overall, it was a great first half for the Gaijin. Errors had been kept to a minimum and they were fairly well disciplined, though centre Sovita Tui could thank his lucky stars that he was still on the field after two crunching high tackles. It was a shame about the try as it didn't represent the solid defense that the Gaijin had been putting in. Olivers had failed to break the Gaijin defense and resorted to numerous grubber kicks behind the Gaijin backline. Dan Benson had erred by kicking one dead from about 8 metres inside the field of play which put the Gaijin under pressure with a 5 metre scrum. and then Jay Leroy made his brain explosion (he later admitted that having seen Dan get away with his kick he thought the same was on the cards for him - he just didn't connect). As the half went on wingers Jaimeson Musich and Jay Leroy became more vigilant about covering the low probing kicks.
Five minutes into the second half Takashi Tanikawa was yellow carded for not rolling away from a ruck. That call was a bit harsh but it was probably more a team penalty than a constant infringement of Tanikawa's.
Jay Leroy, making up for his earlier blunder, scored the Gaijin's 7th try with a 40 metre solo effort. Score: 35 v 5.
The 8th Gaijin try came after a Takuya Ichizono break from 40 metres. Four phases later and the Gaijin were 10 metres out and Jeremy Burns charged over the line to score. Score: 40 v 5.
At this stage of the game - 15 minutes into the second half - the Gaijin forwards were starting to tire and Olivers were making easy breaks that required a lot of good cover defense. With the zero-try bonus point already gone the Gaijin decided to make some movements off the bench, probably earlier than they normally would. Joffa Harris came on the field instead of Takashi Tanikawa when his time in the 'naughty chair' was up and Takeo Honda replaced prop Tomohiro Setoguchi. Tommmy Nasuno and Taichi Nakajima also soon joined the battle.
Gaijin play then got sloppy as the combination of new players and the tiring starters saw their defense start to leak.
Olivers RFC scored the next two tries as their outside centre starting finding holes out wide. The first try was unconverted as the ball hit the posts and bounced out, but the second was succesfully converted. Score: 40 v 17.
Toshinori Minamidate scored next for the Gaijin, once again showing his pace and rugby smarts. The conversion was missed. Score: 45 v 17.
Olivers then hit back with an unconverted try of their own as the Gaijin defense became chaotic and confused.. Score: 45 v 22.
The last try of the match went to Takuya Ichizono and Yamagen converted it. Hooray!!! Finally a successful conversion.
The Gaijin had one last chance to add to the score line with Arthur Levula going close to scoring and then new boy Masaki Chinchin having a dash at the corner from a ruck 8 metres out but the ball was dislodged from his grip as he dived for the corner.
The final score of 52 v 22 to the Gaijin would normally be a score line to be satisfied with but having failed to get a bonus point for keeping Olivers RFC to zero there were a lot of unhappy faces. The Gaijin were joint competition leaders but the Shuto League title for 2015 would be going to Koryo RFC on the basis of a superior bonus point tally and a better 'For and Against'.
The Gaijin first half was very strong but as the team tired in the second half and the reserves didn't add the desired impact, defense became leaky and Olivers started to find holes, especially through the outside centre channel. Once the changes happened the momentum from the start had decayed and concentration dropped after the first Olivers try.
The kicking from the tee on the day was pitiful. Only 1 of the 10 tries was converted. If just 4 of those other 9 were converted the Gaijn would have got their 60 points, but it all meant nothing once Olivers had scored that first half try.
Beating Koryo RFC next year will be at the top of the Gaijin's New Year wish list.
SCORE : TGRFC 52 (Toshinori Minamidate 2, Tkuya Ichizono 2, Apisai Bati 1, Takashi Tanikawa 1, Jaimeson Musich 1, John Simpson 1, Jay Leroy 1, Jeremy Burns 1 tries; D.Benson 0/5, T. Ichizono 0/2, H.Chihara 0/1, T. Minamidate 0/1, Yamagen 1/1 conversions) Olivers RFC 22 (4 tries; 1/4 conversions)
Man of the Match: ????
Goat of the Match: Jay Leroy & Takashi Tanikawa
1. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
4. John Simpson (USA)
5. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
6. Apisai Bati (C) Fiji)
7. Jeremy Burns (USA)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Takuya Ichizono (Japan)
10. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
11. Jaimeson Musich (USA)
12. Sovita Tui (Fiji)
13. Dan Benson (USA)
14. Jay Leroy (Canada)
15. Toshinori Minamidate (Japan)
16. Takeo Honda (Japan), 17. Tommy Nasuno (Japan), 18. Joffa Harris (Australia), 19. Taichi Nakajima (Japan), 20. Arthur Levula (Fiji), 21. Akira Yamagen (Japan), 22. Masaki Chinchin (Japan)