(May 21st, 2006)
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.
Thankfully with the help of friends, wives and girlfriends of both playing and non-playing members of the team the TGRFC were able to scrape together the numbers needed to appease all officials on the day. So therefore thanks must be mentioned earlier than normal to all those helpers. Too often left to last, this occasion merits more importance as without their help, there would have been no need to have scraped the TGRFC squad together.
The game kicked off with the TGRFC playing on a field that had shaped up well considering the muddy mess it had been only 2 weeks earlier. Remnants of the mud was to be of significant annoyance to spectators, reserves and support crew as the only area that escaped recovery was the 20 meters of no-mans land between the two fields. It was to slowly improve throughout the day with the stiffening breeze and sapping heat, which didn`t provide for perfect rugby conditions.
TGRFC accepted the kickoff and were playing into that stiffening breeze. A Paolo de Berriozabal run early in the game emphasized the commitment to winning that permeated the team. Although a little under-prepared, the team was confident of a victory and a good start early buoyed that confidence. The Paolo run after initially going sideways then straightening for a solid 20 meters straight through their forwards put the team on the front foot. After numerous good phases the team had propelled itself into an area from which to launch for a final try-line push. Good Work by Rob Reinebach and Jesse Takahashi had put the TGRFC in this strong position. However, something that is becoming customary of early gaijin attacks, we faltered after a spell of concerted pressure and in moments found ourselves pressured on our own line.
With a scrum feed and about 25 minutes gone in the game, there was a chance to release pressure on our own line. It what was becoming an evenly contested battle at scrum-time the donkeys gained the upperhand and wheeled the scrum. Pressure to clear the ball saw it go to Niall Conlon. With a chance to make good of a bad situation he ran it with some clear field in front, only to have it unluckily knocked out of his grasp. Donkeys retrieved the ball and after t?o passes wider they were over for first points.
Soon after this try, the favor was returned in somewhat controversial fashion. The try scored by Jonathon Dean was clean, but the pass leading to the try was the area of consternation. When Captain Alistair Nimmo was flirting with the sideline, he was allegedly taken out of play before he got the pass away. An indecisive touch judge had possibly raised his flag. The try was awarded by the referee only to be challenged by a number of Donkeys players and Tokyo Cup officials. The official involved (Joffa Harris would prefer to remain un-named) admitted to indecision, but pleaded to the referee that the only decision made was the decision not to make a decision ( if that makes sense). The try stood and with the conversion the TGRFC took a 7 – 5 lead and the Donkeys had some fire burning in their bellies as fuel for the next 50 minutes of rugby.
The recent event remained in the minds of the Donkeys players and they sprang into a retaliatory attack soon after the kickoff, bombarding the TGRFC tacklers in persistent fashion. They would have scored with numbers to burn had it not been for a huge tackle on the try-line by So Nagashima. A big tackle stopped the certain try and from the ensuing play there was a turnover and the ball was cleared up the field to give the TGRFC some much needed breathing space. Following the benchmark just set, Donkeys continued to attack in flourishes but a stretching tackle by Niall Conlon, and solid hits by Jo Iwasaki and Ryoichi Matsumura were coming from the TGRFC squad to repel them. However, as is often the case in this great game, possession and territory have a huge influence, and after a time defending the boys’ energy lapsed for a crucial moment. Donkeys took full advantage and flopped over in the corner for their second try of the half.
With not much time left on the clock there was time for some prop brilliance by Mark Pearson. He claimed the kickoff with relative ease and gave a delicate pass to Paulo he also sprang downfield for some more yards. It all came to nothing in the end though and the team went to the break 10 – 7 down, and about to play into a stiffening wind that had turned around half way through the half.
The break was a good opportunity to take in water and to buoy each others confidence for what had been an optimistic first half. We were playing well and certainly had the capacity to take the game by the scruff of the neck and make it our own. Only question, would we?
A good run early in the half by Jo Iwasaki and a succession of penalties, and the team found themselves about 30 meters out and slightly to the right of the posts. Decision time for Al Nimmo – 3 points or go for the try. The wise decision was made to kick for goal after earlier butchered efforts and Shaunne Hughes made no mistake. An even game at 10 points apiece.
Back down on our line again and pressure on the scrum again and a poor pass from Al Nimmo from the base of the scrum meant Conlon had to force it in-goal for an opposition scrum. The team was lucky to escape from this with a refereeing error. He failed to spot that the ball went straight through the tunnel. It was pounced on and cleared from the line by the Gaijin team.
Several phases later and a promising move down the blind had Hughes centering with a big kick. A rugby ball bounce later and the pressured defender knocked on for a scrum close to the line. What was a prime opportunity to take a grasp on the game was lost and after a lot of poor rugby by both sides and too much talking the Referee had had his fill. An untimely foray into the oppositions’ personal space by Paulo had the referee decide he looked tired and deserved a break. This was conveyed through a lovely looking yellow card. He was to be another member of the team who would challenge for `goat of the day’ honors.
From the ensuing lineout deep on attack for the Donkeys they set a great rolling maul that the TGRFC decided to watch and after a few moments there was no need to applaud what was a pretty simple try for the Donkeys. The heat of the day, losing a man, and a melee of interesting calls by the referee (both for and against) had worn down the teams’ resilience. A game up for the taking was now advantage Donkeys.
The next 15 or so minutes were lost from the records as the Author was involved in a secret mission into the depths of hell to retrieve one of the 3 golden pills that had been sent to oblivion ( ie. I was looking for the ball that got kicked into the bushes.) Spectators informed me that the ball went back and forth, lots of players touched it and made tackles, the referee blew his whistle several times and no points were scored. Seems ‘bout right.
Unfortunately what I did make it back for was a piece of rugby that would make any butcher proud. An attack down the short-side touch gave room for Ryoichi Matsumura to skirt over for what should have been a try. In a brain explosion of immense proportions he got held up going for an extra few meters closer to the posts ( something we`ll give him credit for, though we`re sure it never occurred). Arguably he did get the ball down but as with the controversial try earlier in the match, the referee’s decision is final and no correspondence can be entered into. Perhaps this was just the way the game balances out. If anything maybe the Tokyo Cup officials can again be blamed. Before the game they explain just about every rule involved with rugby in the pre-match talk. It is the author`s belief that on this occasion they did forget to mention the importance of grounding the ball over the line in order to gain 5 points.
As is with rugby and other forms of scoring, an opportunity lost is one never regained. Moments later the Donkeys thrilled with the decision moved downfield with a solid attack and after swinging wide from a maul close to the line scored in the opposite corner and converted. 22 – 10 to the Donkeys.
What had been an opportunity to draw level and convert for the lead was now a 14 point turnaround try.
The team was shattered and the game was lost.
Goat of The Match – Ryoichi Matsumura ( self explanatory); followed closely by Takashi Mutou who failed to show after getting drunk at his mate`s wedding in Fukuoka and missing his flight back on Saturday night.
Player of the Match – Rob Reinebach. He had a strong game all day playing from the base of the scrum, with many compelling surges and solid defense. Closely followed by Jessie Takahashi who is mastering the pick and go.
The getting out of bed and coming to watch the match even though he was most likely still drunk from the previous night and only actually seeing half the match award – Jerry Brady
Honorable Mention – Horrible John. A man synonymous with the Gaijin touring teams and a highly respected individual for his sheer commitment to help grow the game through turning up to foreign countries to talk about the game and drink beer with friends. We appreciate the lengths you went to coming to the ground to have a beer with the team. Thanks.
In true team fashion the opportunity would not be lost to make the most of some grass, good food, cold beer and great company. It was a beautiful day and not a bad end to this years Tokyo Cup campaign. The Squad had certainly displayed some fine attack and stoic defense throughout the campaign. It is possibly a rebuilding phase for the team with certain players out and others leaving. We definitely met our expectations but were saddened not to have the opportunity to exceed them.
However we continue to have fun and provide much needed passion for all teams that play against us. We come from all walks of life and certainly add quite a lot of color to the competition, of which it is sorely lacking. Onwards and upwards and cheers to another great campaign.
1. Mark Pearson (USA)
2. Rob Poulton (England)
3. Takayuki Kitajima (Japan)
4. Jesse Takahashi (USA)
5. Murray Clarke (NZ)
6. Dave Kelver (USA)
7. Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)
8. Rob Reinebach (USA)
9. Alistair Nimmo (England)
10. Shaunne Hughes (Australia)
11. Ryoichi Matsumura (Japan)
12. Niall Conlon (England)
13. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
14. So Nagashima (Japan)
15. Jonathon Dean (Canada)
16. Chris Lucas (Australia)
17. Dana Post (USA)