June 11th, 2006/06/29
With the completion of the recent Tokyo Cup the Tokyo Gaijin RFC had organized a few ‘friendly’ games to give some of their new players experience before the summer break. On this wet June morning they had gathered out at Misato station in anticipation of a tough game against The Tokyo Crusaders. It had been three or four years since the two ‘Gaijin’ teams had played each other with the TGRFC victorious in that one. A squad of 23 had been named by the TGRFC earlier in the week with all the reserves being forwards, due to a few injuries to the teams` backs. However, four starting members and two reserves had failed to show and time was running out. It had rained quite a bit the day before but it is just water after all, so we thought that maybe the early meeting time of 9:15am might have been the problem.
However, with the scheduled kickoff time fast approaching the rest of the players hadn`t answered our prayers and it was time to go. Some hectic shuffling of the team followed with Paulo de Berriozabal moving from flanker to inside-centre, and Mike Parks starting on the wing – in only his second game of rugby, after having experienced loose forward rugby in his first outing. One of our two reserves, Dana Post was looking at some serious game time after not having had many opportunities recently due to being new to rugby, and that lack of experience keeping him on the sidelines during the cut-throat Tokyo Cup competition. The other reserve, Mikkel Kragh, was to double his rugby experience, having only ever played as a reserve in one game before (and he has never even been to a Rugby training session yet!!). After getting positions sorted out, the team then had 15 minutes to warm up and get the new backs used to the calls.
The Crusaders on the other hand had obviously come to win and had the full commitment of their players. They had a squad of at least 25. Paul Moate was having his first game of rugby in 18 months and had brought a few of his Maori bro`s. Andy Reyna was also on the sideline with a few of his fellow players from the Yokosuka U.S Naval Base. This shocked a few people as last time we had seen Andy (about a year ago) he was playing for us. He admitted that they were ‘Rugby Sluts’ and played for whoever was closest to their base in order to improve his fellow Americans game.
Despite the very ordinary pre-match shenanigans the TGRFC started well. This was a surprise as the Gaijin are usually slow starters. Soon though, the experience of the Crusaders players was starting to show up some of the less experienced Gaijin players. With Brendon Doherty, an ex-Gaijin captain, leading the Crusaders backs, they were able to find some early holes and went to a 10v0 lead through 2 tries out wide.
The gaijin were tackling well but they were giving away the ball too easily. Some poor passing options in the backs must have been frustrating the Gaijin forwards after all their commendable tackling. A lot of passes from stand-off Shaunne Hughes were going to ground or bouncing off the intended target due to too much depth in the wet and greasy conditions.
Midway through the first half the Gaijin started hammering away inside the Crusaders half. The Gaijin forwards were charging aggressively at the advantage line but the Crusaders were proving equal to the task with some crunching tackles. It was no place for the weak-hearted (the boys who didn`t show up??). The Gaijin forwards were starting to get on top of their opposition with fearless charges which led to a succession of penalties for hands in the ruck and other feeble attempts to slow down the Gaijin juggernaut. The Gaijin supporters on the sideline were wondering when referee Steve Lewis was going to bring out the Yellow Card. From the multitude of penalties props Takayuki Kitajima and Mark Pearson would charge the ball up then big Rob Reinebach would follow with a powerful run. While being parked in the Crusaders 22, Murray Clarke did actually get across the line, but he was unsighted by the referee. This was probably fair enough as he had lost the ball forward on his crawl across the line. Finally, after a great defensive display from the Crusaders, Reinebach plunged across the line to put the Gaijin on the board. Shaunne Hughes converted to make the score 10v7 and the Gaijin were back in the game.
This period of domination soon subsided with a few more cases of the ‘dropsies’ and pretty soon the Crusaders backs were out-flanking the TGRFC backs for another try which was converted by Doherty to make the score 17v10 at halftime.
The second half continued in the same vein with the experience of the Crusaders backline having a marked advantage over the Gaijin backs with a few ‘green’ backline members. The Crusaders got two more tries and a conversion to take the score to 29v10 and with the game in the bag, brought on a few of their less-experienced guys (eg. Those from Yokosuka base) which allowed us to give a few of our tiring forwards a rest and bring on our two forward reserves, Post and Kragh for some much needed experience. The Crusaders managed to put one more try on the board before the game was finished to end with a deserved 34v7 victory.
The Crusaders are obviously a very talented and experienced team but I`m not sure there`s a lot of improvement in them whereas the TGRFC have a lot of areas where they can be improved. Obviously the no-show of 4 starting members did not help their cause and there is a chance for redemption later in the year when the two teams will square off again in the Shuto League First Division.
On a sour note, there were claims of eye-gouging by two of the Gaijin team members and they had scratches around the eyes to prove it. I guess it`s no wonder the Crusaders have been kicked out of almost every competition they`ve played in. All`s fair in love and war……but eye-gouging? Come on fellas…..it just not cricket…..sorry Rugby! It was supposed to be a ’friendly’ but I guess it wasn`t so friendly.
Standouts for the Gaijin were the two props – Mark Pearson and Takayuki Kitajima, who carted the ball up fearlessly all day. Rob Reinebach was an obvious choice for Man of the Match with a solid all-round performance. Flankers Dave Kelver and Eric Hermand also kept the Crusaders honest at the rucks and mauls and Murray Clarke did well in the line-outs. Out in the backs Paulo de Berriozabal had a fine game
in his first outing as a center with some rugged tackles, and Mike Parks showed that he is a quick learner with a solid game in his first game on the wing and his second game of rugby in total after switching from soccer (or football in Europe). It was a good experience for the new guys!
Score: Crusaders 34 v TGRFC 7 (Reinebach 1 try, Hughes 1 conversion)
Man of the Match: Rob Reinebach
Goat of the Match:
Shaunne Hughes – for his wayward passes and basketball passes over the top to no-one.Some would argue that those who didn`t show deserve this award. Sean O`Donoghue and Rob Poulton certainly do for overdoing it the night before at the bar and failing to get out of bed until the afternoon. What a disgrace!!! Why the 4 other guys didn`t show up remains a mystery.
NOTE: Later that evening the team had a farewell party for their English stand-off,
Ian ‘Shadow’ Roy, who is going to Australia with his girlfriend Yuka Matsumura.
Yuka will be doing a working holiday and Ian has plans to study. His skills and speed on
the field and his commitment to all things social off the field will be greatly missed. We
wish the lovely couple all the best.
1. Mark Pearson (USA)
2. Chris Lucas (Australia)
3. Takayuki Kitajima (Japan)
4. Murray Clarke (NZ)
5. Jesse Takahashi (USA)
6. Eric Hermand (France)
7. Dave Kelver (USA)
8. Rob Reinebach (USA)
9. Alistair Nimmo (England)
10. Shaunne Hughes (Australia)
11. So Nagashima (Japan)
12. Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)
13. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
14. Mike Parks (England)
15. Jonathon Dean (Canada)
16. Dana Post (USA)
17. Mikkel Kragh (Denmark)