Dateline: 21st February, 2016

Inagi’s Nagamine sports field played host to the first round of the 2016 Cup Winners’ Cup on February 21st and saw Tokyo Gaijin hand out an 85 – 17 drubbing to Superman RFC.

The Gaijins’ selection of a heavy tight five low on jumpers but high on muscle, not to mention a far from dainty back row, provided a forward platform that largely had its own way.  Add three Fijian mid-field backs and plenty of pace at scrum-half and the back three for an A-list combination that surely heralds more victories if availability and injuries allow. 

Played in bright conditions, the first half alone saw the Gaijin establish a 43 – 7 lead with no less than seven tries after captain Apisai Bati went over for the first five pointer in under five minutes.  A father and son combination would then go on to prove that families that can pass together are families that kick ass together with Bati Junior scoring the first of three.  Takuya Ichizono, Sunday’s man of the match for his courageous tackling no less than his points tally, also crossed the line in addition to converting three of the tries.  The other two first half tries added some European flavor to the feast with open-side Nikola Pavesic and lock Gorka Gerediaga combining explosively to expose holes all through the Superman defence.  As Mr. Yamada of the J.R.F.U. blew up for the break, the Gaijin first-half was only blighted by the premature exit of the consistently strong Don Tanaka following a bang to the head.  A heavily strapped Paul Bertier came on to replace him, leading to a pack reshuffle, in an otherwise unchanged side. 

Though the second half would see the Gaijin empty their bench (even providing game time for new member Romain Resse), there was no change in fortune for the Supermen who would concede a further six tries. Two fell to Bati senior, and one each went to Bati junior, Takuya Ichizono, replacement Taku Eguchi, and Paul Bertier.  To be fair to Superman RFC, they played with their heads up to the end, and, notably, scored tries at the 54th and 63rd minutes – hardly signs of a broken team.  However as the game counted down the confidence of the Gaijin backline could only grow, and centers Sovita Tui and Kelepi Burelevu had ample opportunities to run strong straight lines at a slowly flagging opposition.  Similarly the Gaijin forwards had ever more men available for ball carrying, kick chases and dummy runs as the set piece came increasingly under control. 

By way of conclusion the Gaijin may have taught the Supermen a lesson in rugby, but will genuinely profit long term if they learn the benefits of providing such a strong turnout on match day.  Dan Benson and the Karino brothers lent pace to spare behind the scrum, and the whole tight five won post match praise.  Even the bench was filled with Gaijin mainstays, and while Roy Touch handled substitutions the silver-tongued Joffa Harris chipped in with sterling work in Referee Liaison. 

Man of the match: Takuya Ichizono – try scoring and strong tackling.
Goat: Paul Bertier – on account of a glorious air kick on a stealthy ball.
Final score:  Tokyo Gaijin RFC 85 – Superman RFC 17
Starting Team:
  1. Don Tanaka (Japan)
  2. Tomo Setoguchi (Japan)
  3. Joseph Vanualai (Fiji)
  4. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
  5. John Simpson (United States)
  6. Appisai Bati - (C) (Fiji)
  7. Nikola Pavesic (Croatia)
  8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
  9. Kenta Karino (Japan)
  10. Appisai Bati jnr. (Fiji)
  11. Futoshi Karino (Japan)
  12. Sovita Tui (Fiji)
  13. Kelepi Vurelevu (Fiji)
  14. Dan Benson (United States)
  15. Takuya Ichizono (Japan)
  • Natsuhiko Kunitomo (Japan)
  • Paul Bertier (France)
  • Dan Barnett (England)
  • Joffa Harris (Australia)
  • Roy Touch (United States)
  • Taku Eguchi (South Africa)
  • Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
  • Romain Resse (France)