Sugadaira 10's & 15's Sugadaira, Nagano, Japan
INTRO– In the first weekend of July the Tokyo Gaijin Rugby Football Club made their annual pilgrimage to the mountains of Nagano and the resort town of Sugadaira – Japan’s own ‘Rugby Heaven’.
In a country where a fully grassed sports field is a rare luxury, the tiny town of Sugadaira has over 50 brilliantly manicured pitches. They also have a number of specialist rugby shops. In my reckoning, this gives Sugadaira (population c. 1,000) more high quality rugby facilities than the Greater Tokyo Area (population c. 35 million).
A few members went up the night before and were met the following day by the rest of the Gaijin. Some time after 1 pm the team assembled for their their warm ups and practice. A sparse 11 players managed to make it to Sugadaira. With Capt. Al Nimo out injured he rallied the team with the help of the other members from the I.R. list Bully and Blake Walker from the sideline offering advice, jeers/cheers and water support.
The First match came up quick after the teams warm up and the team was still feeling a bit of travel lag as they headed out to the field. The first game went well…. very wrong. Most of the players tried their heart out but the team had a terrible time getting a coordinated effort together to attack. The team was a odd mix of seasoned vets and new comers which were led in the forward pack by Joe Fisher and Muaro Sauco with Niall Conlon and Toru Kanamori leading the backs.
Communication and dropped balls caused the Gaijins hopes to be dashed early with the first games minutes winding away to 0 and still scoreless being over and the Gaijin being scoreless. A loss this early was hard to take, and vowed vengeance in the next match.
New comers like Erin Hughes continued to provide comic relief for the team by picking up the ball and looking for some one to pass it to with out even taking a step. Later he was instructed by Steve do one thing when coming in contact with the ball, "PUT HEAD DOWN, RUN" which seemed to work allot better for all concerned except the opposition.
During the second round of play the Gaijin had a by and used the time to work on their game and get things together a bit better. When they stepped onto the field for the second match there was a air of determination and it showed.
The backs attacked and were swift and fresh on their feet. The forwards owned the scrum. Though for all there effort the Gaijin were down at 1/2 time. Then it happened. The Gaijin spark took hold and with some encouraging words from the IR bench and a quick cheer. EVERYTHING switched "ON!" and the Gaijin went into full attack mode. The forwards Mauro Sauco and Murray Clark produced rucks and owned scrums, Tucker McEwen, Niall Conlon and even Joe Fisher scoring tries to give the Gaijin a win. A real come from behind victory.
With the fresh win, but tired legs the Gaijin headed directly to their last match of the tournament. Early on Murray Clark took a low shot and was taken out of the game with a knee injury. Between fatigue and the thinness of the high mountain air the Gaijin started having a tough go of it again. Struggling to keep the score from getting to beyond a "respectable" loss the team fought the good fight down to the end.
With the tournament finished the team headed back to the hotel to lick their wounds and shower up for the closing ceremony's.
At the tournament ceremony the Gaijin were rewarded with letus and free beer. The cool mountain air managed to cure the hot tempers that had flared up towards the end of the tournament.
That night post game festivity's were held at a location that had three vital aspects, A big screen TV to watch the game, Beer and plenty of space. All partook in preparation or lack there of for the following days 15's tournament.
The next day was not a pretty site. Captain Al Nimo was a bit perturbed at the state of the team, noting that there is only one traffic light in all of Sugadaira and the fact that During the day there seemed to not be a single old lady who needed help crossing said street. Yet the team looked pretty worse for wear.
After a brief debacle with the 15's opening ceremony times and places the team finally made its way to the field.
The following match which seemed to be a eternity of pain suffering is now just a blur of yellow and red Jerseys.
The 15s started out and finished as poorly as the 10s. There were several bright spots to be remembered, Tucker McEwens 2 tries, a good strong scrum from the Gaijins tight 5, and finally Joffa Harris all to brief (for him) stint as the teams kicker.
Following the game the opposition in a excellent display of sportsmanship, gave us 2 cases of Asahi Supper Dry! Thanks Guys!
* The squad for the 10's matches was:
* For the 15's matches we were joined by: