The Tokyo Gaijin continued their winning ways with a comprehensive 34 v 7 defeat of Idemitsu Oil RFC in an Ichihara League game.
With a training day arranged for the Shuto LeagAue Select team for the NZ Ambassadors Cup the Gaijin turned up to the beautifully manicured and green (rare in Tokyo!) Chiharadai Field way out in woop-woop Chiba missing 10 regular players (Justin ‘scoobie’Mynah, Rob Poulton, Kevin Rebay, Paulo de Berriozabal, Alaister Nimmo, Saki Naita, Joe Nawaqavanua, Apisai Bati, Amir Yassari, & Andy Ballard). The TGRFC Club still managed to get a decent squad together and it was a chance to give some of the ‘greener’ players a chance to shine. The team was welcoming back Dan Salter & Riki Pitter after long absences due to injury & sickness. Pitter was to join Hitoshi Chihara in an untried centre combination. Mauro Sauco was also returning to the Gaijin fold after 6 months working in China and making the odd guest appearance for the Beijing Devils RFC until injury reared its ugly head and forced him to take a 5 month rest from the game.
Small leagues of highly competitive teams are often decided when the best two meet. The Gentle Giants RFC prepared well for the '08 Shuto League competition. We observed them attracting large squads to training and playing their previous encounters with discipline and determination. But...On Sunday the 8th of November, the Gentle Giants RFC faced a full and fearsome Tokyo Gaijin regiment.
As if an almost full complement of troops was not enough, talented new faces also bolstered the lines, with Hiroyuki Ikeuchi and Amir Yassari making debuts (well done Amir for making it to the correct ground this time...). Occasional visitor Alexis Ottenwaelter was also in attendance, fortunately once again in Tokyo on business. Making a first outing since Sugadaira was Alastair 'face first' Nimmo, whose cheek, fractured on tour, was judged adequately repaired from reconstructive surgery.The battlefield was the premium Inagi stadium, best ground on the Shuto circuit and the pitch on which the representative 'New Zealand Ambassador's Cup' match is played in mid December. The ground was wide, flat, hard, and well protected from the wind. Expectations were for an exciting and watchable encounter. The men who made it happen for us were Jesse Cutler at the organisational end and Blake Walker as linesman.
On November 2nd the Tokyo Gaijin RFC had a ‘Friendly’ game against the Hitostsubashi Blue Lions (an Old Boy’s team from the local university). As they are not in the Shuto League and the TGRFC had never played them before the team didn’t know what to expect. All we knew is that they had won the Shuto League 10`s Tournament a few months earlier, so we expected fit and fast players. It was also another chance for the ‘Gaijin’ to experiment with some positional changes and get some players on who hadn’t had much game time recently. Kevin Rebay and Joe Nawaqavanua were slated to switch positions with Kevin playing outside center and Joe moving into No.8. Yoshihiro Sato, who hadn’t started for some time, was given a starting berth on the right wing and Gaz Dalrmple and Erin Hughes were given the task of stiffening up the forward pack from the get go.
The start to the game was far from ideal. As the author of this article, I must admit I was one of the several players who turned up late to the Hitotsubashi University ground (somewhere in Kunitachi, which I mistakenly assumed was somewhere near the Kunitachi motorway junction, and proceeded to get horribly lost). What a nightmare start! As I arrived (15 minutes before kickoff), most of the forward pack was still trying to pull out their metal studs and replace them with plastic ones to satisfy the local officials and ground staff of the artificial grass field. Obviously some guys rarely change their studs as some had stripped the screw-in part and some guys had completely snapped off the stud (due to rust?). Why didn’t they do it the day before? Good question? Apparently quite a few were relying on Gaz Dalrymple to bring a bunch of studs from the sport shop near his house. It was all a bit of a panic but we were told that they were very strict about this. (Editors note: As it turned out, the referee never checked the studs and a few of the opposition players had metal studs – it seemed to be a complete waste of time!). While this was going on, the backs were out playing touch footy and no one was even close to being switched on for a game of rugby.