Sugadaira. If they say rugby is the game they play in heaven, I'd say Sugadaira is as close to heaven for any rugby player I've ever seen. Green all around, fresh air, a hot sun, cool rains and lots and lots and lots of rugby fields throughout the town. Did I mention the quality of those rugby pitches? Best in Japan outside of the international stadiums! Immaculate is a word that springs to mind. A joy to play on. So we did.
Early on Saturday morning, to Sugadaira it was for the third year running for the Tokyo Gaijin. A 4-hour car ride up into the Nagano mountains where the TGRFC were to defend their title of Grand Champions in the annual 10 a-side tournament.
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.
After the characteristically shambolic buildup to another Tokyo Cup Game some members could be excused for damn near throwing in the towel and conceding defeat before kickoff.With a large number of players out for various reasons such as injuries, personal commitments, and getting drunk in Fukuoka and missing planes, the team was struggling to get the compulsory 15 players and 108 Tokyo cup accredited support staff with Bachelors Degrees in Mechanical Engineering and a B+ average in POLS 109 (introduction to Tokyo Cup Political Bullshit and Rope jumping).In particular the grade point average of Ian Roy came into question, with his lack of understanding of the intricacies of green bib wearing.
On Sunday TGRFC, a Tokyo Cup 2nd Division side, took on Doronko (3rd Div.) in a friendly match to fill in the blanks of the encroaching summerschedule. What could have and should have been a sizeable victory to the Gaijin turned into a see saw battle of who could make it hardest for themselves to win the match. But what a ripper of a finish it was!
The opening 10 minutes saw the Gaijin looking solid: forwards crunching itup the middle, making 10-15 yards through the likes of Mauro Sauco, Chris Lucas and Taka Kitajima, supported well by loosies Dave Kelver and Eric Hermand. The forwards were followed by Alistair Nimmo snapping away at half back and launching the backline into action; generally making solid ground through the line breaks of Shaunne Hughes and the offloading of Nial Conlon.The forwards were, generally speaking, up with the play and in support. Only small errors such as losing the ball in the ruck cost the Gaijin possession at this stage.