The afternoon match against the Gentle Giants always promised to be an epic event. The Gaijin needed a win if they wanted any chance of a respectable finishing position in the Shuto Div. 1 League. And with the departure of Rob Reinebach from the back row for a few months, we knew that the Gaijin would have to have a combined team effort in order to win.
This was true for the first half. Both teams played good solid rugby and the forward pack made their way around the park assertively. Both flankers, Eric Hermand and Dave Kelver were like work horses, making themselves available at the breakdowns, and some strong running from our props, Rob Poulton and Takayuki Kitajima ensured that the home side got good quick ball. The scrums were solid, with relative newcomer Dave Orwig in at hooker. Although the Gaijin line-outs lacked a clinical edge, the opposition line-outs left much to be desired, and on balance, the Gaijin probably won as many of the line-outs as we lost. The tackles were indeed ferocious and we had some valiant performances. Although the Gaijin controlled much of the first 15 minutes, concentration gave way as the Gentle Giants' center burst through our back line, causing a domino effect, with the Gaijin on the back foot at every step. They then conceded another try in the face of careless ball-watching and were found short of numbers in the backs. The resultant try (converted) forced the team to reorganise and focus on the goal. And it didn't take long… soon after, the Gaijin were awarded a series of penalties in the centre of the park approaching their 22. Breaking off into a set-piece move with second rows Jesse Takahashi and Mauro Sauco pulling the strings, the Gaijin ensured they had their first try through No. 8, Paulo de Berriozabal. Although the subsequent conversion was narrowly missed, the Gaijin had the wind in their sails and looked like the comfier team.
The first half gifted the Gaijin with many opportunities, but unfortunately the backs will be disappointed with their first half performance. Although the defence was solid bar two tackling errors, the backs failed to gel on a couple of occasions with poor passes being the root cause. Despite a disallowed try by our recent joiner Tucker McEwen, there was an air of dissatisfaction which the Gaijin aimed to correct in the second half. Unfortunately, the problems in the backs were the least of their worries in the second half. A complete deterioration of the entire team's capabilities to work together as a unit led to the concession of three tries which effectively killed off any chance of a win. But spirits were not withered, as a stunning run from winger Yoichi Ohira from his own half and some more good lead-up work from Paulo led to another new-comer to the squad, big Canadian prop David Huffman, going over the try-line. Although the Gaijin regained composure, it was a tough ask to come back from three tries down. But some absolute monster tackles by our centers Arthur Levula and Niall Conlon throughout the match must be recognised, with fly-half Shaunne Hughes dictating play in the backs. Replacement forwards took a little time to settle, but the forwards held strongly in the scrum, and the backs maintained their defensive line well late on into the match.
In conclusion, it was a game which the Gaijin could have sewn up in the first half, but failed to do so. The game opened up in the second half, and caught the home team napping. A disappointing game to watch, and a frustrating match to play.
FINAL SCORE: Gentle Giants 28 v TGRFC 10 (De Berriozabal 1, Huffman 1 try, Hughes 0/2 goals)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Arthur Levula
1. Rob Poulton (England)
2. Dave Orwig (USA)
3. Takayuki Kitajima (Japan)
4. Mauro Sauco (Argentina)
5. Jesse Takahashi (USA)
6. Eric Hermand (France)
7. Dave Kelver (USA)
8. Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)
9. Alistair Nimmo (England)
10. Shaunne Hughes (Australia)
11. Yoichi Ohira (Japan)
12. Niall Conlon (England)
13. Arthur Levula (Fiji)
14. Tucker McEwen (USA)
15. Jonathon Dean (Canada)]
Reserves: Toru Kanamori (Japan), David Huffman (Canada), Dana Post (USA), Takashi Narita (Japan), Mike Parks (England), Lawrence Hii (Australia), Takeshi Takada (Japan), Jo Iwasaki (Japan)