By Daniel Barnett
 
Dateline Sunday June 19th 2016
 
Misato Sankei Sports Area provided the arena for this Tokyo Cup 4th Round showdown, though if the venue is familiar the result was a welcome change from last year as a muscular Gaijin outfit went from a set-piece platform to the winner's podium. 
Despite a messy kick off reception as Kurumi got the game underway at 12:30 sharp there was a certain Gaijin confidence in the air, which never looked like crumbling in this hard-fought encounter.  To be fair to Kurumi their early pressure was substantial: they won a succession of early penalties and kicked one of them to take an early lead within 5 minutes.  However crunching tackles from defensive mainstay Dan Benson and Chris Musgrave set the tone of the real business that decides rugby matches.  By the ten-minute mark Kurumi would still have their lead but the Gaijin had a dominant scrum and that, of course, is worth an awful lot more than three early points.
 
Our match log for the day is regrettably bare, but points worth noting are that captain Appisai Bati opened the scoring with Paddy Watson converting for a 7-3 lead that would grow to 12-3 as the skipper grabbed his second one before Kurumi could take a five pointer of their own to trail 12-8 at the break.
 
At half-time spirits were high and the call was for more of the same.  A forward platform had been established with Yuta Oba and Toshinori Minamidate both notable at the breakdown for those occasions when Kurumi insisted on possession of their own.  Added to this, Paddy Watson's kicking game was very much on form alleviating pressure as and when it occurred.  A dark cloud was Dan Benson's withdrawal due to injury, but in Roy Touch an able replacement took to the field to plug the gap.
 
As the second half got underway Kurumi showed that they were far from out of it, and in stealing a converted try briefly went three points up (15-12).  However when Bati decided to snatch a hat-trick - with Mr. Watson converting once again, Kurumi had scored their last points, and though no-one could have known at the time, the way was open for the Gaijin to turn a probable close-one into a convincing victory.   
 
The final points would come from tries by utility tight forward Gorka Gerediaga and open-side Yuta Oba the last of which was converted.  However in both cases the points were the result of growing pressure from a team effort.  Jeremy Burns, Barry Lobendahn, Paul Bertier and Takashi Tanikawa were all recorded for a combination of determined carries and notable tackles.  Similarly subs Joffa Harris and Akira Yamagen (both veterans) were noted for running offloads and impressive kicking respectively.  The final score line of 31-15 to the gaijin was a deserved one.  
 
Final thoughts: This game was highly competitive and despite a number of penalties and two yellow cards (Paddy and Taku) the play was in every way physical, but in no case cynical.  The yellow cards are worth mentioning, because although some players were not noted in the log, the fact remains that at various points in the game, fourteen guys made up a thin blue line that never really looked like snapping.  Among non-playing subs there was real disappointment at not getting on the pitch, but if teams are truly as strong as their bench then that is some consolation.  Kurumi played well, and were definitely close - but in the final analysis, not close enough. 
 
Man of the match: Toshinori Minamidate
 
Final score:  Tokyo Gaijin RFC 31 - Kurumi RFC 15
 
Scorers:
TGRFC 31. Tries: Appisai Bati 3, Gorka Gerediaga 1 and Yuta Oba 1.  Conversions: Paddy Watson 3.
Kurumi 15. points breakdown: Two tries, one conversion and a penalty.
 
Team:
  1. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
  2. Tomohiro Setoguchi (vc) (Japan)
  3. Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
  4. Paul Bertier (France)
  5. Barry Lobendahn (Fiji)
  6. Appisai Bati (Capt.) (Fiji)
  7. Yuta Oba (Japan)
  8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
  9. Sota Kaneko (Japan)
  10. Paddy Watson (Canada)
  11. Dan Benson (United States)
  12. Jeremy Burns (United States)
  13. Chris Musgrave (Scottland)
  14. Taku Eguchi (South Africa)
  15. Toshinori Minamidate (vc) (Japan)

Bench:

  1. Kousuke Yamamoto (Japan)
  2. Tommy Nasuno (Japan)
  3. Natsuhiko Kunitomo (Japan)
  4. Joffa Harris (Australia)
  5. Dan Barnett (England)
  6. Akira Yamagen (Japan)
  7. Roy Touch (United States)
  8. Thomas Abberton (Australia)