Dateline 26th June, 2016
The Tokyo Gaijin RFC had done all the hard work through the pool and knockout stages of the Tokyo Cup and reached the final for the first time in their 25 year history. They were up against Supermen RFC, who they had thumped 85 v 17 in the 1st round of the Champion's League (aka. Cup Winners Cup) in which they went on to win the final against Mandara RFC to create history. This game provided them with another potential first - Tokyo Cup 1st Divsion champions.The Gaijin team on this day was quite a different team though as they had been devastated by injuries in their backs throughout the campaign. They were also missing two young Fijian backs (Kelepi & Bati Junior) who were standouts back in March.
Supermen are a quality outfit and obviously one of the best teams in Tokyo. Depite the thumping back in March they were favorites for the game and the injury count for the Gaijin made it more so. The Gaijin stayed in the game for 60 minutes but the overwhelming penalty count against them and the lack of depth brought about by the injury toll started to become apparent as the game rolled to its conclusion.
The referee was particularly harsh on the Gaijn and quickly and heavily penalised them for any perceived infractions whereas he showed Supermen a lot more leniency. The Gaijin received three yellow cards throughout the match. This was a burden that made it difficult for them to win.
The first penalty of the game came just 30 seconds in and was against the Gaijin. After the kick for touch the Supermen put together an excellent rolling maul and the Gaijin had no answer as they were pushed back 20 metres and then found themselves standing behind their own try line. The conversion was unsuccessful but if tries were going to come this easy then conversions wouldn't matter. After 1 minute the score was 5 v 0 to Supermen RFC.
This woke the Gaijin up from their typically slow start. A good break from Nic Pavesic and some good side to side play got the Gaijin well into the Supermen half. The Gaijin got their first penalty just before the 5 minute mark with a high tackle on prop Tomohiro Setoguchi. Soon after they got another penalty when Supermen were guilty of swimming around the side of the ruck about 5 metres out form their try line. Quick thinking from captain Apisai Bati resulted in him making a quick tap and charging over the line. Paddy Watson converted off the posts to put the Gaijin in front 7 v 5. This was to be the only time the Gaijin led the game.
The next 5 minutes made it obvious that there were some gaping holes in the Gaijin defense. Jeremy Burns was having a tough day at outside centre. Normally a flanker in his short rugby career (almost a year now) he has filled in at inside centre remarkably well. Why he started at outside centre is beyond me. The rest of the squad weren't faring much better with a lot of lazy tackling resulting in some good Supermen breaks which were usually cleaned up by Toshinori Minamidate who was having a great game at fullback for the Gaijin.
Just before the 13 minute mark the Gaijin got their first yellow card when winger Masaki Kakishita flew through the air to make a tackle when he was seemingly beaten. It was little man on big man as he went at the neck of Supermen's only foreign (only gaijin) player, The tackle was hardly dangerous but it was high and reckless and the referee seemingly had no option but to send him to the naughty boys' chair.
A few line out steals were keeping the Gaijin in the game but the penalties were still running high against them.
At the 25th minute mark Supermen were given a penalty 5 metres out form the Gaijin line. Before the referee had turned around a Supermen forward had quickly taken the tap and crashed over. Despite being well off the mark the referee awarded the try. The conversion was unsuccessful leaving the score at 10 v 7 to Supermen.
They furthered their advantage on 31 minutes with a successful penalty goal to go out to a 13 v 7 lead.
In the 41st minute Gaijin standoff Paddy Watson was yellow carded in what can only be labled as a poor call. The Gaijin knocked the ball on and Watson cleared it into touch after the whistle. Perhaps a second or two after the whistle. No biggie. Well, the linesman (obviously miffed that he didn't get the main gig and wanting a bit more attention) came onto the field and recommended a yellow card. It wasn't a penalty. It was a scrum after the knock-on.....and it was marginally late at best. Lo and behold, Watson was the second Gaijin yellow card recipient.
Supermen scored moments later as the Gaijin were still recovering....standing around gob-smacked. The conversion made the score 20 v 7.
Though the referee was making things terribly difficult with his interpretation of the laws and that in his eyes the Gaijin players were the main culprits, the Tokyo Gaijin RFC players still believed that they could pull back the deficit. They had put together some good attacking raids and if they could keep 15 players on the field (they would have to wait another 8 minutes for this to happen) and improve their defense then anything was possible. They needed to score first to give themselves a decent chance.
The Gaijin defense did improve and there were no further points scored until the 10th minute of the second half. Gaijin half Sota Kaneko didn't clear the ball from a scrum and made a complete hash of it by dropping the ball. Supermen pounced and finished it off with another try. The conversion put them out to a healthy 27 v 7 lead.
Four minutes later a Gaijin rolling maul resulted in a try to a Gaijin forward (Who????). Watson failed with the conversion and with 55 minutes gone the Gaijin were down 27 v 12.
The Supermen would put on another try (Score 32 v 0) before the Gaijin made some laddered changes to get fresh legs on for tiring bodies.Tommy Nasuno came on for Joseph Vanualailai in the front row, Yuta came on for John Simpson, Mosese Nasegesege came on for Taku Eguchi and Joffa Harris came on for Takashi Tanikawa.
4 Minutes later Joffa Harris found himself sent to the sinbin after a sideline scuffle with some audience members. Mosese Nasagesege wrenched the left-side Supermen winger into touch. It wasn't the prettiest tackle but some side line audience members of the Supermen persuasion grabbed him from behind as there was a bit of push and shove between the two players. Joffa Harris, not liking the fact that someone not even playing was manhandling one of his team mates, stepped in and gave one of the guys holding Mosese a shove in the face. The referee, who obviously hadn't seen it all clearly, yellow-carded him for a punch to the face. (Believe me...I did not punch him). Not sure on the rules here but I am fairly certain there should be some kind of sanction for non-playing members of a team to get involved in a fracas on the sidelines. No doubt nothing was done about it or ever will be.
Paul Bertier joined the action as captain Apisai Bati left the field. Jo Iwasaki came on for Jeremy Burns and Natsu Kunitomo replaced Don Tanaka.
The Supermen would run away the game over the last 10 minutes as they scored 3 tries while only converting one. Most of them were breakaway tries as the Gaijin had run out of answers and energy.
The final score was 49 v 12 to Supermen. They had gained a measure of revenge for the thrashing the Gaijin had given them in March this year. They were definitely the better team but one could only wonder how close the scores may have been if the Gaijin were not down to 14 men for 30 minutes of the game. The current injury toll defintely had a bearing on the game for the Gaijin but that is part and parcel of rugby and not an excuse that the 23 players who particpated in the game today would like to use. Besides a settled squad unaffected by major injuries doesn't give new guys the chance to impress.
NOTE; I usually try to be as unbiased as possible when I write any game articles for the Gaijin. Being a one-eyed Gaijin player for many years now it is sometimes difficult. The amateur rugby scene in Tokyo has some very poor referees but today I witnessed one of the most biased performances by a referee ever. Perhaps the fact that it was a final makes it seem worse. The Gaijin players had fought hard to get to where they were today and deserved better. It was the final of the Tokyo Cup - perhaps the highest accolade an amateur team can get in Tokyo. But they were never given a chance to win this game. Refereeing is a tough job. I've done it. A bad referee is usually bad both ways. But todays referee was very biased against the Gaijin team. After the game he admitted he had lost some control and that he never gives out so many yellow cards. OH, great. Small consolation now.
In front of my eyes I saw the referee warn a Supermen player to roll away from the ruck he was slowing down - not once but twice....and then let play continue. After a turnover, and at the very next ruck, he immediately penalised the Gaijin for the same offense. This was how the day went.
Old Boys in the audience and players alike, even though they have seen some shockers before, were amazed at how biased this referee was.
SCORE: SUPERMEN RFC 49 (8 tries, 3/8 conversions, 1/1 penalties) TGRFC 12 (Apisai Bati 1, Mystery Man 1 tries: Paddy Watson 1/2 conversions)
Man of the Match:
Goat(s) of the Match: Masaki Kakishita, Paddy Watson, Joffa Harris
1. Joseph Vanualailai (Fiji)
2. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
3. Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
4. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
5. John Simpson (USA)
6. Apisa Bati (c) (Fiji)
7. Nik Pavesic (Croatia)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Sota Keneko (Japan)
10. Paddy Watson (Canada)
11. Taku Eguchi (South Africa/Japan)
12. Ryosuke Suehisa (Japan)
13. Jeremy Burns (USA)
14. Masaki Kakishita (Japan)
15. Toshinori Minamidate (Japan)
Reserves: (16) Paul Bertier (France), (17) Tommy Nasuno (Japan), (18) Natsu Kunitomo (Japan), (19) Dan Barnett (England), (20) Joffa Harris (Australia), (21) Yuta (22) Touch Roy (Australia), (23) Mosese Nasegesege (Fiji), (24) Joe Iwasaki (Japan)