First and foremost, we would like to say thank you to all of our supporters who came out and helped us for the game. The weather was miserable and the ground was a mess, but without you we couldn’t have played in the mud. Now, on to the story.
Fired up by their recent success in the first round of the Tokyo Cup tournament, the TGRFC once again headed to Kizoochi Rugby Grounds in hopes of putting another victory under its belt. While May 6 may have been a beautiful day in many parts of the world, with couples strolling leisurely through sunny parks and children playing in grassy knolls, this was not the case in the dreary outskirts of Tokyo.
With a grey sky, continuous rain, and soup for a field, the conditions were perfect for two things: Spartans defending Thermopylae and stressed-out working men playing Rugby. Throw a little bad blood between teams into the mixture and the stage was set for a classic TGRFC battle. The boys were also hoping for a little revenge from last year’s narrow loss to the Donkeys.
After a thorough dress check to ensure that no players had faded shorts and that their underwear was color coordinated, the Gaijin took the field ready to take on the Donkeys, the weather, and a thoroughly incompetent referee.
nkeys Kick Like Mules
In a game that saw only two kickoffs, the Gaijin put the ball up first. The opening minutes set the pace for the game with the forwards clawing and digging in the rucks and the backs forming solid lines of defense. Strong runs from forwards Joe Fisher, Sean O’Donoghue, and Murray Clarke had the Gaijin moving the ball early on into Donkey’s territory. Some mischievous play by the Donkeys gave the Gaijin a chance to score early on a penalty kick. Unfortunately, Shaunne Hughes’s kick sailed wide to the left and what would turn out to be the decisive moment of the game failed to give the Gaijin any points.
The next several minutes saw the ball moving up and down the pitch with both teams struggling to control the slippery piece of rubber. As field conditions allowed for a lot of unseen activity in and around the rucks, tit-for-tat waywardness quickly began to escalate. About this time that the referee realized that there was a shiny new whistle hanging around his neck and quickly put it to work.
A wave of penalties struck the Gaijin from all over the field. Resident pacifist, Joffa Harris, dismayed by the penalties, questioned the referee’s judgment using broken English mixed with a little Japanese. Though his argument was articulate and well organized, the Donkey’s were awarded a penalty for talking back. This was the cue for captain Alastair Nimmo to make his usual “Keep Your Mouths Shut and Let Me Do the Talking!” speech. As always it was met with mixed results and he would have to make the same speech again later in the game.
Midway through the first half the Gaijin would play their best rugby of the day. Attacking again and again from within the Donkey’s 20 the Gaijin forwards showed off their new rucking skills and maintained control of the ball for several series. The poor field conditions made getting clean ball a near impossibility, and Captain Nimmo had to dig through not only people but also ground to recover the ball. A shovel would have been helpful, as long as it had an IRB tag of course.
With the forwards steadily pushing the Donkeys back to their try line, Alastair’s pitch to a charging Sean O’Donoghue sent him crashing over the try line and into a mess of Donkey’s defenders. The Gaijin were jumping for joy and slapping each other five when the ball was ruled as being held up and the Gaijin were denied the try. What a buzz kill. Joe Fisher was already waiting in kickoff formation back on the Gaijin side of the field and had to be called back to duty.
Undaunted and still in possession of the ball, the Gaijin switched tactics and attacked from the backs. Some good passing from Shaunne Hughes and forceful running by Apisai Bati nearly put the ball over the line, but the stubborn Donkeys and their friend with the whistle were able to muster just enough defense to keep the Gaijin out.
Making one last stab at a try for the half, the gaijin had amassed in the right corner of the field, and were sending wave after wave of pick and runs into the Donkey defense. The Gaijin attack ended with recent returnee Heats Devlin picking the ball and diving over the try line for what would have been a score if he could have held on to the ball. Feeling a little disgruntled and deeply suspicious of the whistle-man, the Gaijin headed into the break fired up and eager to get back into the game.
The second half began much as the first half ended: with both teams covered in mud and tempers starting to simmer. From the very start of the second half a pattern started to develop that did not bode well for the Gaijin. It could be broken down into five parts.
1. The Gaijin would make a great tackle on a Donkey player
2. The Gaijin would steal the ball in the ruck
3. The referee would blow the whistle and give the ball back to the Donkeys
4. The Donkeys would kick the ball out and throw the ball a meter to their side in the line-out
5. The process would repeat itself
Despite the difficulties faced in the lineout, Murray Clarke did an excellent job securing Gaijin ball, though he was never really given a chance defensively.
Most of the second half saw the Donkeys controlling the ball and moving up the field in 10 meter increments. With passions rising and our backs to the wall it was time for the Gaijin defense to make a statement. Recent Air Force additions Nick Morgan and John Gouldthorpe, on for the second half and making their second appearance in tournament, didn’t wait long to start making big hits. Joe Fisher, Sean O’Donoghue, Dave Kelver, Alastair Nimmo, Nick Morgan, and Heats Devlin all had certified hits on the opposing #9, while a number of other players got their paws on him as well.
The closing moments of the game were spent near the Gaijin try line with the referee threatening to just give the Donkeys a try if there was one more penalty. Luckily, time ran out before he could follow through on his threat and the Gaijin walked off the field with a well earned draw.
SCORE: TGRFC 0 v Donkeys 0
MEN OF THE MATCH – Murray Clarke and Joe Fisher
GOAT OF THE MATCH – Shaunne Hughes
STRANGEST PENALTIES: Looking suspicious, Conspiracy to place hands in the ruck, Loitering
Joe Fisher (New Zealand)
Toru Kanamori (Japan)
Takayuki Kitajima (Japan)
Murray Clarke (New Zealand)
Mike Parks (England)
Dave Kelver (USA)
Joffa Harris (Australia)
Sean O`Donoghue (Ireland)
Alaister Nimmo (England)
Shaunne Hughes (Australia)
Lawrence Hii (Australia)
Apisai Bati (Fiji)
Niall Conlon (Britain)
Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
Heats Devlin (Australia)
Nick Morgans (USA)
Mauro Sauco (Argentina)
John Gouldthorpe (USA)
Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)
Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
Andy Ballard (England)