I`ll let you finish the ACDC song – perhaps replacing “rock & roll’’ with “ruck & maul’’ .. For all those that have climbed Mt Fuji, the TGRFC were hoping that the rugby team that gets their name from the world famous peak were not as difficult to get over the top of.
Things were not looking good though with a raft of experienced players out injured or out of the country. The forward pack was looking particularly green. Jesse Takahashi was given the job of leading the forwards but he`s a quiet man at the best of times.
From the kickoff the ball found touch 5 metres inside the opposition 22 in a promising start for the TGRFC.. This promise didn`t last long though with Dave Huffman losing the ball soon after in a ruck and then the usually reliable Niall Conlon missing a tackle. Shaunne Hughes made a good cover tackle but the Fuji Club players managed to keep the ball alive and scored in the right hand corner. Within the first 5 minutes it was 5 v 0 to Fuji Club!
It soon went from bad to worse when the kickoff didn`t go 10 metres ……Huffman dropped it anyway! From the resultant scrum Fuji Club kicked down the blind side and made good ground. This was followed by two consecutive penalties to them. They went blind again after one of their props hit the ball up and it looked like they were going to score a try for all money until Tucker McEwen came flying across the field from fullback and smashed the Fuji winger over the sideline in a perfectly illegal shoulder charge. It took the poor fellow a few minutes to recover from this big hit. The referee didn`t see any problem with the tackle though and ordered a 5 metre line-out. There followed a good clearance kick by Hughes to get the Gaijin out of their own quarter. A great chase by Jesse Takahashi had the Fuji backs scrambling for possession and Takahashi, with the help of one of his backs, managed to put the ball carrier into touch just outside the Fuji 22 metre line. Mike Parks got his hand to the ball from two consecutive lineouts but only succeeded in knocking the ball into the oppositions` hands.
A kick upfield from Fuji Club coupled with a great chase had McEwen in trouble and help was far from hand. Fuji worked their way to a scrum 10 out from the Gaijin line and then received a penalty for offside soon after. They were knockin` on the door for a try. Their situation was helped when the referee missed a blatant knock-on and then an obstruction on winger Lawrence Hii went unnoticed and then the referee mystified onlookers further when his arm went up for an offside penalty against the Gaijin inside backs. The Gaijin spent the next ten minutes defending grimly. They finally loosened the shackles with a good break down the right flank after a Hughes kick had Fuji struggling after great hassling by Alistair Nimmo and Hii. Soon after big Argentinian Mauro Sauco succumbed to an ankle injury and new boy, Andy Ballard, made his first appearance in the Gaijin colours.
Fuji scored not long after this after some feeble tackles one or two off the ruck. This made the score 10 v 0 after the kicker failed to convert.
Not long after the restart the Fuji Club were hammering away at the Gaijin line again and their persistence paid off with a pushover try from a lineout. The Gaijin players looked like they had thrown in the towel. Score 15 v 0 to Fuji Club at halftime.
The next bright passage of play from the Gaijin saw Takahashi pick up the ball from the base of the scrum and go blind. The next minute Tomoaki Miyazawa was flying down the wing with the ball. Unfortunately nothing came of it and Fuji Club finished the half with a 15 v 0 lead.
The second half started like the first with a bright patch from the Gaijin. Dave Huffman took the kickoff and waltzed through the oncoming defenders however the ball was soon lost by Ballard. Hirotaka Okamoto joined the fray soon after and there followed a good (bright) 5 minutes of play by the Gaijin. Okamoto seemed to add some missing spark and some venom in defense, and with his first touch went on a strong bumping run up-field from fullback. Takahashi backed him up, but once again the Gaijin were guilty of not protecting their own ball and being outnumbered at the breakdown. Fuji Club was to score next but again failed to convert to take a 20 v 0 lead.
There followed a comedy of lost chances and knock-ons for the rest of the game. The Gaijin did finally get on the board however. Hughes went up the blind from a scrum and was well supported by his loose forwards. Fuji Club were caught short and soon penalized for hands in the ruck. Nimmo took a quick tap and ran at the opposition – something the forwards should have been doing. Then Mauro, whose ankle had miraculously recovered, charged at the line. McEwen followed up and sliced through the middle of the opposition forward pack and ran around to score 10 metres to the right side of the post. Hughes converted the kick to make the score 20 v 7.
Soon after, McEwen saved another try with a great tackle, and he must have thought he was seeing double when a minute later he was faced with a 2 on 1 situation yet again but the Fuji backs knocked the ball on. It must have been the pressure form McEwen…he had them scared! From the ensuing scrum Nimmo took a quick snipe down a slim blind side and then found McEwen outside him. He managed to beat a couple of defenders but not the fullback. Eventually Fuji Club were able to work their way into the Gaijin 22 through a mixture of Gaijin errors and penalties. The Gaijin spent the remainder of the match continually under pressure and defending on their own line. With seconds remaining Fuji Club followed up a 5 yard scrum with a series of rucks and mauls. The Gaijin couldn`t hold long after this continued onslaught. The ball was sent to the wing for a soft try. This was to prove the final nail in the coffin with the Fuji Club running out well deserved winners to the tune of 25 v 7.
The Gaijin were thoroughly outclassed on the day and it was only the poor kicking of the Fuji Club that didn`t make the score more embarrasing to look at, having missed all 5 conversions. The match was a learning experience for some of the new TGRFC players. At one stage Mike Parks and Dana Post, who had a whole three full games between them, were the second row pairing. Tucker McEwen, who also has only played a handful of Rugby games, had a blinder with two try-saving tackles and a try. It was some of the more experienced players who needed to step up for the Gaijin but it turned out to be the newer guys who performed better and hopefully they`ll learn from this experience and take some positives into their next game. The Gaijin have now only won 2 of their 5 games and meet Shuto League leaders Tento Mushi in three weeks time. Luckily they have two training runs to work on their mistakes.
SCORE: Fuji Club 25 : TGRFC 7 (McEwen 1 try, Hughes 1/1 goal)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Tucker McEwen
Reserves: Jo Iwasaki (Japan), Hirotaka Okamoto (Japan), Andy Ballard (England)