Dateline: July 17, 2016
To celebrate Tokyo Gaijin RFC's 25th anniversary year an Old Boys match was set up to be played at Tatsumi on July 17th. Always a treat to play on, Tatsumi is home training ground for the Japan National Team and the Sun Wolves so ground conditions were as usual, fantastic. To qualify for Old Boys rugby players must be 35 or over, though the Gaijin did manage to sneak in two 33 year olds. All France on the other hand were an open age team, ie. anyone from 18 years of age and up. With early summer heat and some Gaijin players getting close to 50, the match was played in three 20 minute thirds.
The opponent of the day was an old friend and foe over the years: the All France RFC. A lot of games have been played against All France over the past 20-something years and with them being an even more "social" rugby club than the very social Gaijin, the Gaijin have always been the winner, but once.
The mood was festive as a lot of faces that had not been seen on a pitch for many a year came out for this day. Some members had not been seen outside of Facebook for as much as a decade, Yoichi Ohira brought boots that disintegrated after his first warm up run. Afterall, they had been sitting in a bag for 10 years. With all this it was extra special just to catch up with old friends who shared the blood, sweat and tears that come with the game of rugby.
Before kick off a moment of silence was held to reflect upon the tragic events that occurred in Nice, France, days prior to the game. Pre-game speeches were short and to the point but the game kicked off in good, typical fashion: a few minutes behind schedule.
The Tokyo Gaijin kicked off deep into All France's 22 and the French returned fire back to the Gaijin. The ball was shifted to Tomoaki Miyazawa at inside center who made a good strong bust up to the French 10 meter line. Unfortunately however the Gaijin forwards were left gasping for air as the French blew them off the ball. The French in turn quickly shipped it to Tomoaki's opposite who, with Tomoaki at the bottom of the ruck, stepped not one but three Gaijin on his way over half-way and under the posts. It suddenly looked like a tough day ahead with the score 7-nil to All France after the first minute.
The Gaijin struck back however and immediately levelled the scores with a drive over try by Englishman Liam Ramshaw from a few meters out. At 7-all the Gaijin were fired up and ready to make amends.
A number of Gaijin players were getting busy and showing some fine skills. Names that stood out over that first period of play included Irish halfback Eamonn Murphy who scored the next try at the 8 minute mark, former Singapore "International" Yoichi Ohira was seen at least once on a big midfield break, Roy Tachi (at lock of all places) who carried aggressively all day scoring in the 15th minute from 8 meters out with a pile of French bodies on him, and Tomoaki MIyazawa who scored soon after strolling in from broken play at the 22 line. Takashi Tanikawa and Jo Iwasaki also stood out for some strong runs and excellent defence, while the Gaijin forward pack become dominant after that embarrassing first ruck. It did not take long for the score to rocket up to 7 points to 29.
In the second spell the Gaijin opened with Liam Ramshaw picking up his second and the team's 6th try and 36th point from 35 meters out (7-36). At that point he was well in need of oxygen and took a breather on the sideline.
Nice backline play showed slick passing to give Daisuke Ikegami a clean outside break and run for the corner but he slowed up and passed inside to Bati who went over untouched close to the posts, making it 41 points (7-41).
All France had been talking about ruck dominance during the break but the only way they could make inroads was with fast handling to find the gaps in a tiring Gaijin defence. They came close out wide on the right flank through a kick-pass from their Aussie fly-half but their novice winger fumbled the ball and what should have been an easy try. The play was followed up though with the French forwards finally getting some reward at scrum time enabling their fly-half to barge his way over in the tackle to bring the score to 14-41 at the end of the second spell.
It didn't take long through for the Gaijin to strike back in the final period and it was Jo Iwasaki who made a charge down on the 10 meter line that was snapped up by a Gaijin player who quickly passed back to Roy who made a solid run and nice offload for Gorka to have a sneaky prop sprint to the corner. Score 14-46 to the Gaijin.
Takashi Tanikawa again started to stand out and he was dominant over the French forwards in both tackling and with his strong ball carries. It was one of his charges that lead to a series of penalty taps and the next try by Tomoaki from the 22 line. The score was 14-51 but the French weren't done yet and ran in a nice try to their left winger from a long way out. The defence was clearly tiring and no-one could be bothered chasing the young fella as he took the score to 19-51.
Closing out the third period the Gaijin ran in a further 3 tries through the Gaijin prop Kenji Noguchi who had made some strong runs through the match, as well as Daisuke Ikegami and Apisai Bati who scored their second tries bringing the final score to 19-71.
During that third period another stand out play came after strong runs from Gorka Gerediaga and Joffa Harris that led to a penalty just outside the French 22 line. A tap was taken and Yamagen surprised everyone by ignoring the huge overlap in the back line by putting in a dropped goal that sailed straight through the uprights. After missing mostly all of his conversions all day and having the kicks given to Gorka who also managed to miss more than he got, Yamagen came up with a reminder that he can kick beautifully when he puts his mind to it.
It was a light hearted day with plenty of smiles and laughs for both teams and a few moments stood out. The best of which may have been Eamon Murphy's frantic dummy run in the first half where he faked blind side, swung open side holding the ball out to his runners only to suddenly realize he had run past them all. Promptly he swung back and ran all the way back to the blind side where the defence finally understood where we was going and made their tackle. Eamon had a great game but that play had both sides in giggles.
A huge thanks has to go to both the All France club and the referee for helping us enjoy a great day out. A lot of old memories were shared and it was great for everyone to see so many old faces from both sides.
Final Score: Tokyo Gaijin RFC 71 - All France 19
Takayuki Kitajima (Japan)
Liam Ramshaw (England)
Kenji Noguchi (Japan)
Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)
Touch Roy (Australia)
Tetsuharu Kumagai (Japan)
Dave Kelver (USA)
Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
Eamonn Murphy (Ireland)
Akira Yamagen (Japan)
Daisuke Ikegami (Japan)
Tomoaki Miyazawa (Japan)
Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
Yoshihhiro Sato (Japan)
Ken Kondo (Japan)
Reserves: Toru Kanamori (Japan), Gorka Gerediaga (Basque), Thomas Abberton (Australia), Joffa Harris (Australia), Apisai Bati (Fiji), Takashi Muto (Japan), Max Manson (NZ), Yoichi Ohira (Japan)
Supporters: Murray Clarke, Hitoshi Chihara, Matt Downer, Arthur Strang, Natsuhiko Kunitomo, Masaki Kakishita, Tommy Nasuno
Referee: Shinsuke "Kinta" Kaneda