Tokyo Gaijin 0 Komaba WMM 12
Another year, another final, another disappointment.
Despite a sterling first-half effort into the wind against the overwhelming favourites - in two years and eight matches of Tokyo Cup rugby, Komaba WMM had not failed to post 50 points in a game - Tokyo Gaijin eventually succumbed to some elusive running and, perhaps, a degree of over-confidence that resulted from the monumental first 40.
Playing into what Bill McLaren might have called an "evil, blustery, will-o-the-wisp breeze" (Scotland V France, Murrayfield, 1990, 21-0, thanks for coming, Jacques), Tokyo Gaijin toiled bravely, the forwards once again proving themselves the best in the division and the backs managing to snuff out rogue attacks down the flanks. The tight five were again immense. Clarke, Hughes, Sauco, Suyama, and Pearson battered their opposites so comprehensively in the scrums and mauls that it was almost possible to feel sympathy for them. IF YA SOFT!!!!
Out in the backs, Shadow Roy, Jyoh Iwasaki, and Richard Beard adopted a thou shalt not pass attitude that served the side well and threatened on occasion to boil-over in the face of a referee who had a propensity to forget that rugby is a contact sport. Unfortunately, he didn't forget to leave his whistle at home and seized on every possible opportunity to use it whenever Tokyo Gaijin looked like they might hurt someone. However, even the half-time penalty count (4-11 against) couldn't dampen spirits. Turning at the second-half 0-0 to play with the wind, Gaijin could be forgiven for thinking that last year's final loss was firmly behind them.
Sadly, t'was not to be. With Komaba's backline impenetrable and their forwards regaining some composure, they grabbed a lion's share of second-half ball. In tight matches like these, it is often lapses in concentration that turn the game and so it proved. Komaba scored both of their tries in a 10-minute spell. The first emanated from inside their own half with a counter-attack that began with a pass that was forward enough for the referee to shape to put the whistle to his lips before generously changing his mind for the good of free-flowing rugby...Anyway, with some outrageous side-stepping and swift running, they scored in the corner. Beautiful to watch. Then they did it again in the same corner. Not feeling so beautiful.
Gaijin fought back feverishly to create their two best opportunities of the match. The first was spurned five metres out when someone we shall, in the interests of decorum, call Stef Bell looked up to see glory in the form of the tryline, then looked down to see the ball slipping from his hands and onto the turf. The second was when Shadow Roy attempted brilliance: stepping devilishly and shovelling tacklers out of his path he squeezed his way over the line, only to watch the ghost of Stef Bell relieve him of the pill. Game over.
0-12 but a result that even Joffa Harris - not normally a man who takes losing in particularly good faith - claims to have been proud of. And promotion to division two for next year.
Another campaign draws to a close with perennial, heartfelt thanks to all those helpers and supporters who made our promotion possible: Kumiko, Kyoko 1, Kyoko 2, Melissa, Takako, Hiroko, Linesman Jerry (beer, mmm), Aaron, Paul, Ayako 2, Emi, Takeno, and Mizue. Extra-specials to the ever-present manager Ayako 1, and medic Shino. And a hearty thanks to Joffa Harris, Takeshi Takeda and Takashi Mutou who do lots of stuff that enable us to actually get on the field for this competition.