Dateline: October 2nd, 2016
The Tokyo Gaijin RFC have bumbled their way to a close 24 v 17 win over All JIn Jan RFC (AJJ) in their second round Shuto League match at Inagi Athletics Field.. The game was played in fairly hot and humid conditions more suggestive of mid-August rather than the beginning of October and this had the players struggling to keep up at times. The referee also failed to promote a flowing game with numerous puzzling decisions for both sides.
Tokyo Gaijin RFC started the game off very poorly with the first five minutes consisting of numerous knock-ons and scrums in a very stop-start beginning.
It wasn't until the 11th minute that the game came alive with some good play. Off a lineout, Gaijin standoff Paddy Watson gave his inside centre Alex Auldy a perfect inside ball on the angle just outside their own 22 metre line. Auldy quickly straightened and found a big hole up the middle between the AJJ forwards and backs. His 50 metre run came to a halt when he ran straight into the fullback. The ball was quickly recycled and moved from Watson again, to winger Mosese Nasegesege, who charged at the line but was brought down 5 metres short and had the ball stripped from him as the Gaijin support was too slow to get to the ruck. The defender who won the turnover was immediately pushed into touch so the Gaijin were still 5 metres out with a lineout to attack from. A few rucks later AJJ were penalised for offside and captain Apisai Bati took a quick tap 5 metres out and crashed through the defense to score. Takuya Ichizono stepped up to convert to make the Gaijin lead 7 v 0.
Unfortunately for Mosese Nasegesege, he was off with knee troubles, and Ryo Takahashi joined the game on the left wing.
In the 19th minute All Jin Jan got a penalty as the tackled Gaijin player failed to release the ball just inside his own half. AJJ showed confidence in their lineout and maul by kicking for the corner. They managed to maul very close to the Gaijin tryline but just as the maul seemed to come to a halt one of their players seem to fall out of the maul and hit the deck. He half got back up again and dived at the tryline. What a bizzare try! The conversion was unsuccessful meaning the Gaijin still held a slim lead at 7 v 5.
AJJ had an unsuccessful shot at goal from a penalty in the 15th minute.
In the 24th minute Ryo Takahashi made a strong run into the defenders after fielding a kick from his wing. He was met by solid defense and was sommersaulted in the tackle. Everyone was wondering if it would be a yellow or a red card. The referee had a talk to the culprit and his captain and that was it. Bizarre again. Fair play to Ryo Takahashi for getting straight up like nothing had happened. If he had milked it I think the referee would have made a different decision.
By this stage of the game it was clear for all to see that All Jin Jan was employing a better kicking game. This was frustrating the Gaijin and helping AJJ gain considerable ground. It also helped tire the Gaijin forwards who constantly had to run backwards.
In the 29th minute, after spending five minutes outside the Gaijin 22 metre line with the help of numerous ruck penalties, the AJJ standoff threw a dummy from a set-piece play and stood up his opposite in Paddy Watson, and raced 15 metres to score under the posts. The AJJ kicker converted to give them a 12 v 7 lead.
In the 35th minute two penalties in succession got the Gaijin to 10 metres out form the AJJ line. Good hands across the line from left flank to right flank with a final nice long cut-out ball from Toshinori Minamidate to the unmarked Takuya Ichizono resulted in a try to the Gaijin. Ichizono improved his position marginally closer to the posts but still failed with the conversion.
The Gaijin were hot on the attack soon after but big Joe Nawaqavanua dropped a sitter (easy pass) when they had the AJJ backline stretched. Maybe he was too busy salivating over the holes in the defense in front of him. That was typical of the Gaijin's first half but the two teams would go into halftime locked at 12-all.
Despite the half time rest, early in the second half the Gaijin No.6 was on the far right of the field and the No.7 was on the far left of the field. The ruck that they should have been at least close to was in the centre of the field. This was perhaps one reason that the AJJ club were winning numerous penalties at the breakdown, especially for failing to release - as the support play was just not there for the Gaijin. There seemed to be a general lethargy and they would have to snap out of it if they were to keep their winning run so far this Autumn, in tact.
In the 6th minute of the second half Paddy Watson kicked for the corner after the Gaijin received a penalty 35 metres out from the AJJ line. The Gaijin mauled the line-out to within a few metres of the AJJ line and captain Apisai Bati crashed over the try line on the blind side. Takuya Ichizono couldn't convert the wide kick but the Gaijin had stolen the lead back at 17 v 12.
About half way through the half the Gaijin got a string of penalties and AJJ got a few warnings from the referee for constant infringements (I imagine the conversation went like this: "If the infringements continue I'll have to give you a 5th 'last' warning"). The Gaijin finally found some consistency annd punched the ball upfield through the forwards. Little by little they made their way up to the AJJ line and eventually Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka crashed over the line under the posts. Takuya Ichizono converted putting the Gaijin out to a 24 v 12 lead.
The rest of the half was an arm-wrestle as both teams struggled to get deep into their opposition's territory. Ball handling was generally poor...as was the referee. Gaijin standoff Paddy Watson was yellow carded 12 minutes before the end for a late tackle.
AJJ made the score line look a little more respectable right at the end of the game. The Gaijin just seemed to give up on the tackling. An AJJ player ran across field passing a handful of possible tacklers with various dummies. He was tackled by the only Gaijin player seemingly interested but managed to pop the ball up to a supporting player after the tackle, and he just had to flop over the line next to the posts. The quickly taken drop goal was missed from virtually in front and that left the final score 24 v 17 to the Tokyo Gaijin RFC.
To state the obvious, a win is a win, but the Gaijin played poorly. To win and play at a much lower standard than you are capable of could be considered a good thing, perhaps. There was none of the support play and fluency of the previous two games this autumn season. The kicking out of hand was poor and the Gaijin were convincingly outplayed in this department by AJJ, who used it as their main weapon. The team just didn't seem to gel. Some may blame the heat but it didn't seem to affect AJJ as much, and this may point to a lack of fitness, as there was a lot of walking in the game by certain players.
Best for the Gaijin in the backs were Takuya Ichizono and Toshinori Minamidate who both returned the ball from numerous kicks with gusto and usually beat the first few defenders - they just needed more support. Man of the Match for the Gaijin was No.8 Takashi Tanikawa in a tireless display in both attack and defense.
I would also give the referee the Goat of the Game vote. He was inconsistent and failed to promote a fair and fluent game. Some of his decisions were outright puzzling. To not card an AJJ player for what was obviously a dangerous tackle on Ryo Takahashi and then yellow card Paddy Watson for a marginal late tackle was unfathomable. AJJ obviously were unhappy with his performances as well with one of the AJJ wingers heard to say "You should give up refereeing" late in the game to which he got a stern talking to. If events that happened in previous games this year were to go on, he should have got a yellow card!
SCORE : TGRFC 24 (Apisai Bati 2, Takuya Ichizono 1, Don Tanaka 1 tries; T. Ichizono 2/4 conversions) All Jin Jan 17 (3 ties; 1/3 conversions, 0/l penalties)
Man of the Match : Takashi Tanikawa (Toshinori Minamidate was selected by the opposition)
Goat of the Match : Paddy Watson (Yellow card)
1. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
2. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
3. Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
4. Stanley Henry (NZ)
5. Nik Pavesic (Croatia)
6. Apisai Bati (C) (Fiji)
7. Joe Nawaqavanua (Fiji)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Sota Kaneko (Japan)
10. Paddy Watson (Canada)
11. Mosese Nasegesege (Fiji)
12. Alexander Auldy (NZ)
13. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
14. Takuya Ichizono (Japan)
15. Toshinori Minamidate (Japan)
Reserves Used : Tomofumi Nasuno (Japan), Daisuke Ikegami (Japan), Taku Eguchi (South Africa), Ryo Takahashi (Japan), Wataru Sato (Japan)