Kameari 26 Tokyo Gaijin 37
Is Dave Kelver the best rugby player in Japan right now? Of course not. That's just dumb. But he's pretty handy and it was due in large part to his sterling form and to the outstanding work of the tight five - and in particular, the front row of Mark 'Maple Leaf' Pearson, Yukio 'Samurai' Suyama, and Chris 'Pubescent' Lucas - that Tokyo Gaijin finds itself in its second final in successive years.
Kameari opened the scoring after some deceptive running rugby by their backs and some deceptive efforts at tackling by ours. Kelver was on hand minutes later, however, to plunder his first try off the back of a remarkable 25-metre driving maul and narrow the margin to 5-7.
Gaijin then sportingly allowed an entirely different combination of Kameari backs to sift through some gaping holes that only rumoured at defence and extend their lead. Things might have been worse still had Takeshi Takada not dived on a loose ball 5 metres from the Gaijin tryline and launched a jinking, 20-yard scramble to safety. Inspired, Gaijin trundled back into the Kameari half, where Ian 'Shadow' Roy, playing at first five-eighth, decided that it would be an appropriate time to inject his customary genius into the game - his weapon of choice on this occasion being a perfect chip-kick and regather for a wonderful-if-not-a-little-greedy score in the corner. (10-14) Shortly after, Kameari responded with a chip and chase of their own, and an evil bounce combined with lackadaisical Gaijin defending saw our deficit widen again.
Both teams continued to inflict this tit-for-tat humiliation upon each other right up to the half-time whistle: Gaijin forwards massacred their opposites whilst the Kameari backs launched sorties as haphazardly ridiculous as they were brilliant. Another Gaijin rumble toward the tryline resulted in our 231st penalty of the half, courtesy of a referee who was very helpful to our cause and regularly in agreement with the advice that player-manager Joffa Harris imparted. The smart money was on a scrum and inevitable pushover try but captain Blake Walker sniffed glory as he might sniff out a Big Mac Supercombo with extra fries, and chipped over the bemused heads of everyone for a lurking Shaun Kameari to dot down unopposed.
15-21 and just enough time for Gaijin to make themselves look a bit silly again. A clearing kick misses touch, their winger on halfway catches the ball, trots infield, gathers up some steam, cuts inside, jinks out, backward somersaults, half-pikes (degree of difficulty 4.3) and offloads to his mate the centre who has a wee chuckle as he scores under the bar. The fact that the linesman missed the winger's foot in touch was academic - we were made to look like twats by 2 lads who were taking the piss.
Last year's semi-final saw Gaijin down by 10 at half-time and a gutsy comeback to make the final. This year's comeback was more emphatic. Kameari couldn't get their mitts on the ball for about 38 of the last 40 minutes, so complete was the Gaijin forward dominance. The backs, too, had a more stable look to them, with Beard at full-back and Devlin out on the wing. Mauro Sauco (or perhaps Joffa Harris) scored from another punishing maul, then centre Blair Parkin barrelled over following a line-out win. (By this time the opposition had given up contesting the line-outs to concentrate on repelling the drives, so dominant were Murray Clarke and Shaun Hughes. This tactic didn't work, either.)
Down by one, but rampant, Dave Kelver marched over again. In the mess of bodies, Shaun Hughes could have laid claim to a share of the spoils - and he did, loudly and vociferously after the game - but no-one likes a greedy attention-grabber, so the boy who cries wolf can go and stick his finger in the dyke. Whatever that means.
Nature having been restored and, as Edmund in Lear might have put it, "The Wheel" having turned "full circle" (Gaijin being in front where they belonged, 30-26), it was left only to Parkin to produce a bit of fancy footwork of which the Kameari backs would have been proud, to bag his second and finally offer the Gaijin kicker a conversion out in front.
Final score 37-26
Thank you kindly to all the support crew: Ayako 1, Ayako 2, Shino - who left her sick husband in bed to, ironically, fulfill her role as team medic, Mizue, Takako, Takeno, Paul 1, Paul 2, Aaron and Jerry (who purchased for the team a lot of beer which was very tasty and made some of us feel all nice inside).
Men of the Match: Takeshi Takada; Ian Roy.
Men of the Match who didn't get Men of the Match: Chris Lucas, Yukio Suyama, Mark Pearson
Pocket Battleship of the Match: Dave Kelver