Dateline: 30th October, 2016
The Tokyo Gaijin RFC were shown what it feels like to be beaten by bigger men and a more powerful scrum when they battled out their 4th round Shuto League match against Crusaders RFC at Omiya Kenpo Ground way out in Saitama. The TGRFC traditionally have a strong scrum and rarely get beaten and even pushed the bigger Crusaders pack back last year but not this time. They would also have felt how many Japanese teams usually feel when they play the Gaijin as they were completely out-weighed and eclipsed in size with the Crusaders pack containing 3 forwards around the two metre mark.
To make matters worse for the Gaijin they were missing many of their own big men, mostly due to work commitments. A list containing Baz Lobendahn, Nik Pavesic, Gorka Gerediaga (all work), Stanley Henry (returned to Australia), Chris Musgrave (Flu), Jeremy Burns (work), and Alexander Auldy (concussion) is a big list of big men. Neveretheless, the Gaijin were aiming to continue their winning streak from three games to four, and their dominance over the Crusaders which goes back 8 years, and had complete faith in their squad. Another surprise came when the Gaijin players realised that the Crusaders also had a handy 'ring-in' with semi-pro player Keita Sekimoto providing them with blinding speed and 3 tries - close to the eventual difference in points between the two sides. (He has played Rugby League with the Gaijin in a 9's game).
The Crusaders kicked off and the first 10 minutes was a real arm-wrestle as both sides sorted each other out. The big Cru No.8 got them deep into Gaijin territory but the Gaijin won a scrum penalty and soon after Gaijin standoff Paddy Watson kicked deep into Cru territory and the Gaijin eventually forced a 22 metre dropout.
In the 13th minute the Crusaders had the first try of the match when their No.13 ran hard and fast, straight through his opponent Rap Pagai, and scored under the posts. Teh conversion made it 7 v 0 to the Crusaders.
In the 24th minute the Crusaders extended their lead when their No.8 crashed through the Gaijin defense to score after numerous penalties and missed tackles from the Gaijin. The conversion was unsuccessful. Score: 12 v 0 to the Crusaders.
In the 27th minute Gaijin captain Apisai Bati reduced the deficit. Takashi Tanikawa went blindside from a scrum 10 metres into the Crusaders half and passed the ball off to Toshinori Minamidate. The ball went through the hands of two more inside runners and ended with Bati going over to score. Yoshihiro Iyadomi converted to make the score 12 v 7 to the Crusaders.
Constant pressure from more penalties and weak tackles by some of the Gaijin forwards led to another try to a Crusaders forward just before halftime. The conversion was missed but the Crusaders would take a healthy 19 v 7 lead into the halftime break.
The misery continued for the Gaijin in the second half with two early run-away tries to that man Keita Sekimoto. The first was an 80 metre effort and the second a 60 metre effort. On both occassions Gaijin standoff Paddy Watson missed tackles after buying nice dummies from his opposite number, and on both occassions the Gaijin flankers were nowhere to be seen. On both occassions the ball was spun wide after the initial break and finished off with the express pace of Sekimoto. Watson was already struggling with an oblique injury at this stage so his play was diminished but the Gaijin management still awarded him with Goat of the Match at the end of the game for these costly errors. The Gaijin managed to keep Sekimoto wide for the first try resulting in an unsuccesful conversion but not the second. Score: 33 v 7 to the Crusaders.
It was then up to Gaijin captain Apisai Bati again to reel in this big lead. With the Gaijin hot on attack they earned a penalty 5 metres out and Bati took a quick tap and crashed through the Crusaders defense to score. Iyadomi again converted. Score: Crusaders 33 v TGRFC 14.
The following kickoff from the Crusaders failed to go 10 metres but the Gaijin failed to capitalise on this mistake and soon found themselves standing under the posts again after another 70 metre effort with good ball work and pace from the Crusaders backs. Score: 38 v 14 to the Crusaders.
At this stage the big contacts were beginning to take their toll and Yuta Obha and Paddy Watson were replaced due to injury. Mosese Rarasea also replaced Rap Pagai to bring some impact to the Gaijin backs.
The Gaijin would score next from a lineout 15 metres out from the Crusaders line. The 'banana' move that Bati does so well was called and Bati drew the last defender and passed to Tomohiro Setoguchi who strolled over to score. Yoshihiro Iyadomi successfully converted again. Score: 38 v 21 to the Crusaders.
The last try of the game was syptomatic of the Gaijin's play on this day. The ball was passed along the line and ended with Gaijin lock John Simpson who threw a no-look pass to no-one. Keita Sekimoto picked the ball up and raced in for his third try to make the final score 43 v 21 to the Crusaders and that's how it stayed after the unsuccessful conversion.
Well done to the Tokyo Crusaders for ending 8 years of Gaijin domination. They out-muscled and out-paced the Gaijin.
For the Gaijin, captain Apisai Bati was a standout and Man of the Match winner. The Gaijin tried hard but lacked a few big men today and sometimes size does matter. It was almost comical to see Gaijin flanker Yusuke Hashimoto trying to bring down the Crusaders No.8 at times. He usually got him when the big No.8 came form the scrum but it was funny to see him going around the legs of someone almost twice his size.
Back to the drawing board for the Gaijin if they want to win the Shuto League. It now leaves three teams on the top of the ladder : Koryo RFC, Tokyo Crusaders and the Tokyo Gaijin
SCORE Tokyo Crusaders RFC 43 (7 tries; 4/7 conversions) TGRFC 21 (Apisa Bati 2, Tomohiro Setoguchi 1 tries; Y. Iyadomi 3/3 conversions)
Man of the Match : Apisai Bati
Goat of the Match : Paddy Watson
1. Tommy Nasuno (Japan)
2. Tomohiro Setoguchi (Japan)
3. Tsunaki 'Don' Tanaka (Japan)
4. John Simpson (USA)
5. Yuta Ohba (Japan)
6. Apisai Bati (C) (Fiji)
7. Yusuke Hashimoto (Japan)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Sota Kaneko (Japan)
10. Paddy Watson (Canada)
11. Yoshihiro Iyadomi (Japan)
12. Rap Pagai (Samoa)
13. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
14. Takuya Ichizono (Japan)
15. Toshinori Minamidate (Japan)
Reserves used: Ivan Kanzaki (Japan/USA), Liam Ramshaw (England), Kenta Karino (Japan), Mosese Rarasea (Fiji), Futoshi Karino (Japan), Wataru Sato (Japan)