On the 24-25 March the Tokyo Gaijin were to participate in their third Manila Tens.
Having won the coveted Most Festive Team Award they were out to reclaim this and try to win some more silverware on the paddock. The squad had been decimated by last minute pullouts, losing four players in the three weeks beforehand due to work commitments or money problems. The eventual squad was:
1.Joffa Harris (Captain)
2.Stuart Thompson (Vice Captain)
3.Niall Conlon (Manager)
12.Alaister Nimmo (injured tourist)
The squad was also joined by two helpers, Medic and Girl Friday, Shino Iwasaki, and another helper in the form of Terumi Nasu.
The squad was a real jumble of players with many positions uncovered. Alaister Nimmo, the teams` regular Captain & halfback, was on tour but unable to play due to just recovering from a broken ankle. He had been on crutches until the Friday before the tournament. Toru Kanamori was tagged to play halfback which left no-one to play hooker. There were also no props in the squad so a few members were going to have quick lessons on the intricacies of front row play. Joffa`s brother Pete, was bringing a squad across from England which included Stuart Thompson who had starred for the Gaijin at the 2006 Manila Tens, Nick ‘Scouser’ Rudd and Rugby virgin Steve Doggett. Another younger brother, Rob, also flew in from Australia. He was coming out of Rugby retirement for the Tens.
Day 1 – March 22
Players started arriving in Manila around 1:30pm. The main squad coming from Tokyo arrived around 9:30pm looking smashing in their Yukata`s, Chonmage & Zoni (team off-field uniform for the duration of the tour) which they had worn since leaving their home in Tokyo. The wearing of Team Outfit was essential if players wanted to avoid big fines at the Kangaroo Court on the last day. (See Manila Tour Rules article & Narita Convention ). The players got reacquainted with each other or acquainted, whatever the case might be, and then spent the night getting acquainted with the local bars and staff.
Day 2 – March 23rd
After a decent sleep-in to recover from the very late night all and sundry went off to the Shangri La Hotel to spend the afternoon lazing by the pool and recharging those batteries for another night of bar-hopping. After that some guys went off to do some shopping then it was a 7:30 meet in our hotel (The Makati Citadel Inn) lobby. This is where the first fines for Sunday night`s Kangaroo Court were written down as the usual suspects kept the team waiting for about 30 minutes over the meeting time. Then it was off to a team dinner at a Brazilian BBQ Restaurant in the nearby shopping and restaurant complex. There was meat galore and the waiting staff was excellent. One particular young waitress named Abby was smitten with Lawrence but soon turned her attention to Alaister when Lawrence lacked that ‘Go get `em’ attitude. After a very filling dinner it was off to quench the thirst before an early night to be well rested for tomorrow. Famous last words. Niall Conlon had done all the hard work in getting the Gaijin to Manila and with him not arriving `til after midnight the guys decided to wait up for him – at the bar. The night kicked on …..and need I say more.
Day 3 – March 24th
Game Day…….and not too many guys looking in Game Day condition. The boys did look impressive in their tour kit of Yukata, Hachimaki, Chonmage & Zoni though. Luckily our games were not until the afternoon. Off to Nomads Field in Merville to see what awaited us.
Game 1: V Leighton`s Larrikins
Leighton`s is a Philippines based Australian construction company with quite a bit of clout behind them. In previous years David Campese, Nick Farr-Jones and John Bentley have worn their strip. This year they only had Joel Stransky (the hero of South Africa`s 1995 World Cup campaign), Dan Crowley (Ex-international Prop for Australia) & Gavin Hastings (Ex-international fullback for Scotland) in their squad. Only!
Our starting front-row consisted of Mike Parks, a first year rugby player who has only recently moved to the second row, Lawrence Hii, a winger playing hooker and Peter Harris, another winger at prop and opposing Dan Crowley. Pete’s probably 70kgs wringing wet but showed Dan a trick or two. It wasn’t difficult to guess what was to come as Stransky easily rounded Stu Thompson to score next to the uprights from the first scrum. Stu usually plays in the forward pack and just didn’t have the pace to keep up with Stransky. Stransky may have retired a while ago but he still is pretty nimble of foot. The Gaijin just didn’t seem to be able to hold on to the kick-offs with those big lumps charging at them and the score quickly built up against them as Leighton’s Larrikins camped in the Gaijin half. Rob Harris seemed to be the target of a lot of the kickoffs but was having trouble keeping them in the breadbasket as he tried to leap for the kicks to avoid being smashed on receiving them. The final score was 34v0 but at least the toughest game was out of the way and things hopefully would get easier. It was then off to the Nomads swimming pool for a refreshing dip & recharge.
Game 2 : The lesson learned from the second match against Valley was to take one’s conversions seriously. With a somewhat depleted squad and no natural kicker, the first option was Alaister Nimmo. Unfortunately, he was on the sideline triumphantly cheering on the team in his red Power Rangers outfit, beer in hand, after breaking his ankle two months prior to the tournament. Thus the team decided that the scorer of the try (if there was one) ought to kick for goal. The opposition team scored a forgettable try, and clinically converted the kick in the 4th minute. The Gaijin responded with a valiant try by the gingertop “Scouse” singlehandedly taking on the backs and planting the ball near the uprights. Having successfully scored, the Gaijins plodded back to their half in preparation for the kickoff and congratulating themselves on a good team effort. What the Gaijins failed to hear was Nick’s scousser accent screaming behind them “I’ve never taken a foghkin drop kick in my life!”. But the pressure was left to rest square on his shoulders as he lined himself up for what is traditionally a drop-kick in a 7s/10s match. Scousser exceeded expectations by not only missing the target by a considerable margin, but also by punting the ball without it falling to the ground first. Thus we failed to draw level and lost the match 7 points to 5. Mike Parks, getting back in cover, was roundly booed at one stage by the crowd in the ‘Bar’ corner as he forgot what sport he was playing (he used to be a soccer player!)and tried to kick a ball instead of going down on it. Team-mates were worried that he would come off the field covered in phlegm.
Game 3 : The third and final match of the group stage was against a French Barbarians team (not to be confused with the French Barbars in Japan). Under the floodlights but, the Gaijin staged an epic comeback. Mike Parks ran in with the first try for the Gaijin to put the team ahead. Needless to say, the conversion was not added, and the French retorted with a converted try. Down 7 points to 10 and staring another defeat in the face, the last phase came in the shape of a scrum in the centre of the pitch in the oppositions 22… a classic opportunity to run the Gaijin “centre” play. Niall Conlon, acting fly-half, and Toru Kanamori in scrum-half teamed up beautifully for Niall to slice and dice the oppsition back line to slip in and score the winning try in the last phase of the game. This ensured that the Gaijin would be participating in the Bowl
The team supped at the facilities of the Nomad’s bar, drank a few tins, and lost a boat race against a team which I can neither remember, nor doubt I ever knew. Having lost a boat race and two games that day, we heroically danced in the middle of the Nomads bar in full yukata in front of an embarrassingly thin crowd before heading off back to the hotel. After a quick prayer meeting, game of chess and a poetry recital, we made our way into town in preparation for the final round.
DAY 4 – March 25th
Game 4 : The guys in the tent beside us didn`t show up `til late so this enabled a sorry looking Doggett & Thompson to sprawl out on the ground and try to get some much-needed sleep. They looked barely alive and were obviously suffering big time from
what-ever it was that they got up to the night before. Lawrence Hii was sitting around in a Zombie-like state and could barely talk. The Manila nightlife had obviously gotten to him.
By this stage of the tournament, problems were beginning to become apparent. The opposition Seoul Survivors, a Korean outfit were a good side. And the Gaijin were facing player shortages due to injury. We were however, outdone in this department by the YC&AC, a Yokohama team which has, in the past, had some “friendly” rivalry. The YC&AC showed up on day 2 with a staggering 3 players. And as much as it was a bitter pill for our captain and club manager, Joffa Harris to swallow, he donned the YC&AC jersey in a pact which guaranteed ample substitutions for the Gaijin by using the YC&AC players. This however failed to impact on the scoreline as we were flogged 34 points to 5. There was one positive outcome, however, as one YC&AC player (Ian Miller) can now hold his head up high and join the select few (very few?) which have scored (on the pitch) in a Gaijin jersey.
Day 5 – March 26th
After a heavy night of revelry it was time to head back to reality for some of the boys. There were some sore heads as the mini bus made its way through the choking traffic and constant beeping to board their flight back to Tokyo and the chain waiting at their desk. The luckier ones, the Harris brothers, Joffa & Pete, Mike Parks, Stuart Thompson, Nick “Scousser” Rudd and Steve Doggett were off to Cebu for five days of R&R, a spot of Scuba Diving and perhaps a bit of bar hopping. Happy Days! Living the Dream!
The team would like to thank the following people:
(1)Niall Conlon for his tireless work in organizing every aspect of the tour.
(2)Alaister Nimmo’s uncle for his design work on the jerseys ( Hokusai’s wave from the 36 views of Mt Fuji)
(3)Shino Iwasaki for all the hard work she put in as Team Medic & Number 1 Supporter.
(4)Denver for putting the boys up (and putting up with the boys) in his palace on Cebu and showing them a great time.
The tour this year was in memory of ‘Horrible’ John Rawlinson, a Tokyo Gaijin supporter from way back. He will be fondly remembered as a fine tourist.