Ichihara League Sevens - 13th of November
Tokyo Gaijin RFC gathered at Yawatajuku out somewhere in the nether regions of Chiba to play against the best that the Ichihara League had to offer to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Ichihara Rugby Football Association. The Gaijin had gathered together a large squad considering it was only 7`s. There were four pools of three teams and the Gaijin were up against the Chiba Barbarians and the MC Club, both unknowns for the team so we didn`t know what to expect..
1st Game: First up we played the Chiba Barbarians who started strongly and got the first try on the board. The Barbarians put up a good performance but had no answer to the pace and power of the TGRFC boys with big Rob Reinebach and Ian ?Shadow? Roy prominent. The Gaijin finished on top 24 v 12 with Sean O`Donoghue getting 2 tries. Arnaud Carrez, in his first outing for the Gaijin, had impressed with his time on the field in the second half and was to earn first team status as the day wore on.
2nd Game: Next we came up against MC Club which were put to the sword by the Gaijin who ran away with a 47 v 0 victory. Heats Devlin picked up a personal tally of 19 points with 3 tries and 2 out of 3 conversions. Dana Post, one of our resident US Airmen, got his first try for the TGRFC ? in fact his first ever rugby try (He has only had 2 part games off the bench in total in his life). As we were only allowed 3 changes from a total of 5 reserves, Mauro Sauco went down with a serious knee injury late in the game to get Dave Kelver on. This backfired as Kelver only lasted 15 seconds before he re-injured his troublesome ankle, and needed to be replaced himself.
Semi-Finals: Onto the semi-finals against Ichihara Club. Once again the Gaijin held their opposition scoreless and came away with a big victory taking it out 31 v 0. In the second half Danny Maloney, a guest player from Australia via Dubai, broke through near half-way and looked shocked to see no-one in front of him but with the try-line seemingly so far away. At first it looked as though he would be hauled in by the chasers but he had just enough gas in the tank to get over the line. Ian Roy and Heats Devlin were prominent again and Shaunne Hughes and Sean O`Donghue were tireless.. A serious knee injury to Takeshi Takada tempered the victory celebrations.
Finals: Next up was to be the Finals against Akanehama, who had beaten YCAC in the YCAC 10`s just two weeks earlier. The Gaijin knew the opposition had pace to burn but went into the match confident of snatching victory. Reinebach barged over for the first try of the match and put the Gaijin up 7 v 0. Akanehama scored next and the teams traded tries in this fashion for the rest of the half. The Gaijin were caught out wide quite a bit and Akanehama`s speedy winger had an express lane to the line.
Just before half-time Roy, who seemed to have the responsibility put on his suspect shoulders to try to chase the opposition winger down every time he got loose out wide, realised he had given him too much start and decided to give up as the guy approached the try-line near the corner. As the guy rounded his run to score under the post Heats Devlin came from nowhere with blistering pace and unmatched determination to grab the unsuspecting winger as he was about to dot down, and turn him on his back and hold the ball up. The guy had all rights to feel robbed and the crowd were in awe. Even the Akanehama supporters appreciated Devlin`s efforts and applauded heartily.
At half-time it was anyones game with the Gaijin down by a single point. With three minutes to go, it was the Gaijin up by 33 v 26 and supporters and reserves on the sideline were sniffing victory. Akanehama had other ideas though and shuffled the ball to someone we`ll call ZipZip man. The Gaijin had seen this guy play at YCAC and knew he was good but he hadn`t done anything brilliant yet. He decided that it was time to step up and from inside his own half in mid-field he zigged and zagged leaving defenders clutching at thin air and then raced away to score under the posts. He then did it again from the kick-off and then one more time for good measure to leave Akanehama up 47 v 33 at the final whistle.
The guys had battled hard and deserved better but were out-done for pace. ZipZip man was the hero of the day and the crowd`s favorite. He had single-handedly destroyed the Gaijin`s hopes. Even ?Shadow? Roy, who is undoubtedly the Gaijin`s fastest player, was heard to say that the man was almost impossible to stop and had stepped him more than he cared to remember. Perhaps Roy had an excuse as he had popped his shoulder out twice during the match but had endured the pain to try and drive the Gaijin to victory. With no ZipZip man this writer has no doubt that the Gaijin would have taken the victory spoils but that`s sport. The best team of the day for the Gaijin would have to be the following seven players:
1. Rob Reinebach (USA)
2. Shaunne Hughes (Australia)
3. Sean O`Donoghue (Ireland)
4. Alistair Nimmo (England)
5. Ian Roy (England)
6. Arnaud Carrez (France)
7. Heats Devlin (Australia)
They were supported all day by the following players:
Mauro Sauco (Argentina), Steve Bull (England), Takeshi Takada (Japan), Tomohiro Nakayama (Japan), Dana Post (USA), So Nagashima (Japan), Chris Lucas (Australia), Danny Maloney (Australia), and Dave Kelver (USA) even if he did only play 15 seconds.
Thanks to Mark Pearson, Lewis Marama, and Jo and Shino Iwasaki for their support throughout the day.