The first scrum was dominated by Fuji Club as they managed to push the Gaijin scrum backwards in a good show of strength. This was not a good sign of things to come. The first penalty of the match however went to the Gaijin for a ruck infringement against the Fuji Club and this was a good sign.
The first close call of the game went to Fuji Club as they put through a grubber kick but Alfie Baros was equal to the task at Fullback. There followed a good run up the wing by Yoichi Ohira before being bundled into touch. Then Shaunne Hughes only just managed to contain his ‘explosive’ temper as he was caught in a high tackle.
The first try of the game was to go to Fuji Club whose hooker managed to sneak down the blind side after a lineout 25 metres out. This clever piece of play both stunned and embarrassed the Gaijin side. Fuji converted making the score 7v0.
With the Gaijin scrum getting shunted around Joe Fisher made the decision to swap with tighthead prop David Huffman, who was having trouble holding his opposite man. The decision was a good one as the scrum improved immediately.
The next points on the board were to go to the Fuji Club when the Gaijin were penalized for a ruck infringement around the 22 metre line. They had no hesitation in pointing towards the post and converted the kick making the score 10v0.
Thereafter, there were some excellent periods of play from the Gaijin with Apisai Bati making a strong run upfield, then Yoichi Ohira making about 30 metres down the wing but a good last line of defense from the Fuji Club kept the Gaijin scoreless. A Niall Conlon kick soon after, that almost went directly across the field, was caught by Ohira and he went off on another strong run but once again excellent cover defense denied him a try. Soon after a try went begging for the Gaijin when Shaunne Hughes made an excellent break. Approaching the fullback and with ‘Ace of Pace’ Andy Ballard in support Hughes chose to dummy and go himself. The Fuji fullback was up to the task and brought Hughes down in a ball-and-all tackle. Still no try!
The Gaijin were now starting to dominate territory and were forcing the Fuji forwards to use illegal means to stop the forwards rolling forward. The Gaijin were given a penalty about 15 metres out from the Fuji tryline which saw then break into two pods – a move often practiced at training. The first pod drew the defense and halfback Al Nimmo was ready to give quick ball but the second pod was nowhere to be seen. He had to pass it out to the backs but the Fuji players were again penalized for being offside. Another ‘pods’ call went out. This time Joe Fisher charged the ball up and the second pod was not needed as he broke through the defense to score. Hughes failed to convert leaving the score at 10v5 in favour of Fuji Club. This was to be the halftime score and the Gaijin were quietly happy that the margin of difference was only 5 points as they were to have a strong wind at their backs in the second half.
Things started well in the second half for the Gaijin as Apisasi Bati went down a wide blind 30 metres out, passed it off to Baros in support, and then got the ball returned to him for a nice try. Once again Hughes failed to convert leaving the score at 10v10 but things were looking to be in the Gaijins` favour.
From the ensuing kickoff, Hughes took the catch and passed it off to Alfie Baros who sent a huge 60 metre touchfinder downfield. The wind was coming into play fro the Gaijin. Soon after, human cannonball, Rob Reinebach went down the blind, drew the defense and handed off to Yoichi Ohira. He was caught by the fullback but the ball was quickly recycled and Bati strolled under the post to put the Gaijin in front 15v10. Surprisingly, Hughes failed to convert from in front.
From the next kickoff Hughes put in a 40 metre touchfinder as the Gaijin were usuing the wind to good effect and obviously concentrating on getting good field position. There followed a bit of a lull in scoring as the teams camped around halfway, neither giving an inch. Apisai Bati was to break the lull when he went down the blind, busted the opposition center`s tackle, drew a tackle from the Fuji fullback and gave a one-handed pass to Yoichi ‘The Body’ Ohira who ran around under the posts to score. Hughes, who had had a forgettable day with the boot, finally converted one, which made the score 22v10 to the Gaijin. Things were looking ominous for Fuji Club.
Fuji Club were to have one last lash though. They made their way deep into Gaijin territory and forced two 5 metre scrums. A solid push, good defense and concerted mauling by the Gaijin club were to keep them out. They finally relieved the pressure by being caught accidentally offside and the Gaijin were able to win their scrum and Hughes kicked down field where the Fuji fullback knocked on. Pressure off!
Soon after ‘Ace of Pace’ Ballard went on a 30 metre run downfield but his inside pass to Yoichi was knocked on and a try went begging. At the next lineout the Gaijin won the oppositions ball and Ballard was in the action again with a good burst in traffic but once again the ball was lost. Soon after, tempers became a bit frayed and there was a bit of biff, something rugby games sadly lack these days. The gaijin were deemed to be the team in the wrong and were penalized but Fuji Club failed to take advantage of the situation.
The Gaijin were next to trouble the scorers. John Gouldthorpe won a Fuji lineout and burst through the forwards and then handed the ball off to Nick Morgans in support. He then handed it off to Hughes and then onto Bati, who bumped off a couple of defenders to get his third try. Hughes, not surprisingly, missed the conversion to leave the score 27v10 to the Tokyo Gaijin RFC.
The last play of the game saw Gouldthorpe take the kickoff followed by quick ruck ball. A flick-on by Bati saw ‘Ace of Pace’ Ballard flying away down the wing but he was taken into touch, whereupon the referee blew his whistle for Fulltime. The Gaijin had won the first pool game of the Tokyo Cup for 2007, 27v10, and gained a measure of revenge for the last time the two teams met.
Best for the Gaijin was obviously Apisai Bati with a hat trick of tries. He was well matched in the forwards by the tireless go-forward of Joe Fisher. Rob Reinebach had his usual powerful game at number 8 and forwards John Gouldthorpe and Nick Morgans made impressive debuts for the Tokyo Gaijin RFC when they came on in the second half. Yoichi Ohira & Andy Ballard showed a lot of pace down the wings with many solid runs and Alaister Nimmo was his busy little self at halfback. Bring on the next game!
SCORE: TGRFC 27 (Apisai Bati 3, Joe Fisher 1, Yoichi Ohira 1 tries, Hughes 1/5 conversions) FUJI Club 10 (1 try, 1 penalty, 1 conversion)
MEN OF THE MATCH: Apisai Bati & Joe Fisher
1.Joe Fisher (New Zealand)
2.Takashi Narita (Japan)
3.David Huffman (Canada)
4.Sean O`Donoghue (Ireland)
5.Mike Parks (England)
6.Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)
7.Dave Kelver (USA)
8.Rob Reinebach (USA)
9.Alaister Nimmo © (England)
10.Shaunne Hughes (Australia)
11.Yoichi Ohira (Japan)
12.Apisai Bati (Fiji)
13.Niall Conlon (Britain)
14.Andy Ballard (England)
15.Alfie Baro (Fiji)
16.Steve Bull (England)
17.Mauro Sauco (Argentina)
18.Nick Morgans (USA)
19.John Gouldthorpe (USA)
20.Murray Clarke (New Zealand)
21.Jason McAffee (USA)
22.Jo Iwasaki (Japan)