On October 1st the Tokyo Gaijin RFC gathered out at Akigase Field for their Shuto League 4th round match against Beers Rugby Club. The name seems to be a strange one for a Rugby Team but reminds me of something I read on a shirt once: Rugby – a pastime of delirious enjoyment, much story-telling, plentiful drinking and occasional singing disturbed only by 80 minutes of often pointless endeavour. I`m sure both teams were aiming to make their endeavours fruitful so that they could enjoy their plentiful drinking of beer. The Gaijin were 1 from 3 so far in the Shuto 1st division and needed a win to keep their season promising.
It was to be the last game for Fijian centre Arthur Levula before returning home after a short stint teaching English in Japan. It was also to be the debut of American Jason McAffee (JMac) who conveniently plays the same position. The team also had ex-vice-captain Mark Pearson on the bench after flying in from Hong Kong to visit the love of his life. It had started to rain around midday – perfect weather for rugby but not the crowd of supporters and helpers on the sideline.
Things did not start so well when the big Argentinian slab of beef, Mauro Sauco, knocked the ball on from the kick-off. The TGRFC didn`t take long to start giving the ball out to Levula who was itching to have a big farewell game. He soon made a long break down the left flank and had support on the outside in Tomohiro Nakayama and on the inside in Jonathon Dean. Either could have scored but after drawing the fullback Levula passed inside to Dean to make it easier for the kicker. Shaunne Hughes, however, failed to convert leaving the Gaijin up 5 v 0. It was a surprisingly early try for the Gaijin and things were looking good.
Soon after Sauco made up for his earlier indiscretion by bumping off about 5 players on a 40 metre run to the line reminiscent of those of which Rob Reinebach, our AWOL No.8, is famous for. Hughes failed to convert. Score 10 v 0 to the Gaijin.
The following kick-off from Beers didn`t go ten so a scrum was taken at halfway. Unfortunately the TGRFC couldn`t take advantage of this mistake as the ball was soon turned over. Soon after Levula was penalized for a high tackle and Beers were edging towards the Gaijin try-line. Due to good defense though, the Gaijin came away with the ball and Levula made a good bust upfield however his long ball out to the wing went to ground. A few penalties to Beers from ensuing plays put the first real pressure on the TGRFC. After some good scrummaging and punishing defense and a great grass-cutting tackle from Dave Kelver the Gaijin were able to soak up the pressure and win a penalty. The kick for touch from Hughes didn`t make it but the wet conditions and a comedy of errors allowed the Gaijin to go from their own 22 line to the oppositions`. Soon after the Gaijin had a penalty tap about 15 out from the Beers` line. Sauco made a great run but ultimately dropped the ball. The Beers managed to clear the ball into touch and then it was halftime.
The halftime score of 10 v 0 to the Gaijin actually flattered the Beers Club but the wet conditions were not very conducive to good rugby. It was a half remembered most by the punishing tackles of Arthur Levula at outside centre. Dave Kelver was getting through a load of work at openside flanker and Niall Conlon at inside centre was making some handy crashes up the centre. It was looking like the Gaijin could run away with the game in the second half if they could manage to hold onto the ball a little better and minimize the silly penalties.
There was a long period of play at the start of the second half where both teams matched each other parry for parry, counterattack for counterattack. Both sides were guilty of some ordinary passes and the slippery ball didn`t help. Attacking moves were falling apart. The hardy supporters getting drenched on the sideline were finally rewarded when the Gaijin got a penalty about 15 out from the Beers try-line. The forwards went at the Beers pack in two waves. Halfback, Alistair Nimmo got quick ball to Hughes, who offloaded it to Sean O`Donoghue, who drew the defense and gave it off to Levula who scored right next to the posts. Hughes converted and the Gaijin were up 17 v 0.
The Gaijin then spent a long period in their own 22 defending. The Beers players threw themselves at the Gaijin line and got multiple chances after a string of penalties due to some undisciplined play by the Gaijin players. The Gaijin wall of defense stood firm though and soon responded with a heart-breaking try against the run of play that took all the energy and will out of the Beers players. After stealing the ball from a ruck it was thrown along the Gaijin backline not far out from their own try-line. This brave move was rewarded when newcomer Jason McAffee beat his man and showed a clean set of heels. As he came to the Fullback he passed infield to Levula who then passed onto Tomohiro Nakayama who then drew the last cover defender and passed back outside to McAffee who scored under the posts. Hughes converted to make the score 24 v 0. Soon after the referee blew fulltime. This left the TGRFC with a 2/2 win/loss record so far and ensured that the Gaijin were still a chance of finishing the Shuto League with a winning record with two games in hand.
Best for the Gaijin were Dave Kelver, who was everywhere in attack and defense. He was well supported by Hiroaki Kitahara in the forwards. Tomohiro Nakayama, playing fullback for the Gaijin for the first time, had an outstanding game at the back. Niall Conlon was solid at centre and Arthur Levula was fantastic in both attack and defense with some bone-shaking tackles. Unfortunately for the team, Levula, whose older brothers Richard and Saimoni played for the TGRFC a few years ago, has played his last game with the club as he will be heading back to Fiji. His time with the club was too short and his punishing defense and fluent attacking play will be missed. We wish him all the best for the future. Hopefully, new boy Jason McAffee can fill his shoes. He certainly showed a lot of promise when he came on during the second half.
TGRFC : 24 (J.Dean 1, M.Sauco 1, A.Levula 1, J. McAffee 1tries, Hughes 2/4 goals)
BEERS CLUB : 0.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Dave Kelver
GOAT OF THE MATCH : Chris Lucas (for going to the wrong station then the wrong field after being told where to go – says he got his fields mixed up – didn`t show in the end!)
1. Rob Poulton (England)
2. Toru Kanamori (Japan)
3. Takayuki Kitajima (Japan)
4. Mauro Sauco (Argentina)
5. Dana Post (USA)
6. Sean O`Donoghue (Ireland)
7. Dave Kelver (USA)
8. Hiroaki Kitahara (Japan)
9. Alistair Nimmo © (England)
10. Shaunne Hughes (Australia)
11. Tucker McEwen (USA)
12. Niall Conlon (England)
13. Arthur Levula (Fiji)
14. Jonathon Dean (Canada)
15. Tomohiro Nakayama (Japan)
Reserves: Dave Orwig (USA), Mark Pearson (USA), David Huffman (Canada), Mike Parks (England), Takashi Narita (Japan), Jason Mcaffee (USA), Lawrence Hii (Australia)