Shuto League 10s Urayasu Japan,
On a cool summer day on the first day of July, the Tokyo Gaijin took the field in Urayasu as part of the Urayasu 10s tournament. While most players showed up and were ready to play on time, as per usual there were a few who were late or debilitated due to long nights of helping old ladies across the street and other gentlemanly pursuits.
Captain Al Nimmo and Vice Captain Jesse Takahashi busied themselves with the paperwork to find out which field was A and which field was B, which teams were in our pool and when exactly we were to play our opposition. They then set about organizing the large squad of Gaijin players that had gathered. A quick team warm up and run through was performed as stomach's churned in anticipation of the upcoming battle.
First up – Tokyo Gaijin vs. Urayasu Beers (Win).
While the squad that played in the first game is a haze in the back of my memory bank I do remember that it was a fine try by Apisai Bati that sealed the Gaijin`s fate in the first few minutes of the tournament. This drive helped to ignite the Gaijin. With a win under the belt the team took advantage of the rest time to practice their kicking and prepare for their next confrontation.
Second match – Tokyo Gaijin vs.Moccos (WIN).
The Moccos put up a strong defense and had a few close drives but eventually could not stop the Gaijin juggernaut. Bati once again crossed the line after a series of vicious palm-offs on opposition defenders to open the scoring. Soon after, good lead-up work by new acquisition, Kiwi prop Chris Fearon, led to a try to the other prop, that Prop in a back`s body – Rob Poulton. It was good to see the two big fellows working in tandem and some were licking their lips in anticipation at seeing the two props working together in the upcoming Shuto League. Once again the opposition did not trouble the score keepers. The win seemed to lull the Gaijin into a false sense of security and some intensity seemed to slip away.
Third match – Tokyo Gaijin vs Baku / Clover (Loss).
The Baku/Clover team combination snapped the Gaijin out of their lull and convinced them that this was not going to be an easy contest. Forward Erin Hughes obviously not in the right state of mind to play, allowed a kick from down field to not only touch the ground before he got to it but, proceeded to let it bounce directly over his head and into the hands of the opposition.
Bright spots came from Chris Fearon again, who was impressive as a forward and contributed to the team from the moment he stepped on the field. While it was the first loss the team suffered they vowed to not let it be the end of them.
Fourth match – Tokyo Gaijin vs All France (WIN)
While the Gaijin took control of this match immediately and got the win, it came at a price. In the final minutes of the match Captain Al Nimmo stopped a try by filing a All France member off the ball and into a unprotected upright. He was immediately, however, hammered by 2 All France members. The team Captain suffered a concussion and another injury to his ankle that was still a bit on the mend. The All France member was stretchered off the field and then to hospital in an ambulance. The Goalpost upright was OK to continue on for the rest of the tournament. Apisai Bati also crossed the white line in this match to continue his point scoring spree. A win is a win but at what cost?
The team regrouped to prepare for the upcoming matches, but the teams` prospects for taking the whole tournament seemed to be getting dim.
Fifth match – Tokyo Gaijin vs Fuji Club (WIN)
With the loss of the team Captain Nimmo, and the teams` leading scorer Bati, to an ankle injury, Joe Fisher and Joffa Harris stepped up to rally the team. A quick motivating cheer and the team hit the field ready to play and the Fuji Club didn't stand a chance. In his last match for the Gaijin Mike Parks drove along with forwards Mauro Sauco and Dave Kelver to grind down the Fuji Club. Fuji put out their best effort but they were not able to get a try and the Gaijin got only one but that was enough to win it and they went into their next match confident.
Sixth match – Tokyo Gaijin vs Tokyo Crusaders (LOSS)
The Tokyo Crusaders are the "other" Gaijin team in Tokyo. It was a hard fought match that rocked back and forth throughout the whole 10 minutes. The Cru and Gaijin giving and taking ground evenly throughout. When the final whistle blew it was 0 all.
The Referee took the ball and moved towards the nearer post and announced "KICK OFF" Eh? A few of the old timers looked at him quizzically. He told each captain to get 3 players and each would have a chance to drop kick a field goal. Apparently this was all set out in the rule book which most people had failed to read. The highest score at the end would win.
One player who shall remain nameless uttered words he thought he would never say, "I wish Shaunne was here." as Bati, Andy Ballard and Rob Poulton stepped up for the Gaijin to attempt kicks.
The Gaijin gathered in a half huddle, on the 22 yard line, to gather their collective strength and put it behind there kicker.
For most people it probably looked easy. Dead in front, 22 yards out. First up was Bati. It was quite and everyone stopped breathing as Bati stepped up first for the Gaijin. Alas, he blasted the ball with a powerful boot just outside of the right post.
The Crusaders kicker stepped up and his kick weakly dribbled over the try line after his kick. Still 0 v 0.
Next was Rob Poulton`s turn. Again everyone went silent and the group pulled tighter together. His shot sailed high but wide to the right as well.
An audible gasp of relief was emitted from the The Cru as their second kicker stepped up. The Cru halfback, Shin Okazaki (a sometime Tokyo Gaijin player), walked up and calmly kicked the ball through the uprights. The Cru erupted in celebration.
Finally Andy Ballard stepped up for his kick. The Gaijins` hopes to stay in the tournament resting squarely on his shoulders. The young English gentleman did not waiver. He took the ball into his hands and lined up. Time, stood still. The Gaijin crouched behind him. Each man's eyes on the uprights all concentrating on one thing – the ball sailing through the uprights. Andy kicked. The whole team cried out as the shot went wide.
In the end it was not one man who kicked the ball, it was a whole team.
All were disappointed to be out of the tournament but gave 3 cheers to the Referee and the Crusaders, and went off to a BBQ and Beers already underway. Some were obviously happy to be out of the tournament so that they could settle into these more relaxing persuits
The close of the tournament brought a celebration with cheerleaders and music with the Fuji Club taking home the Urayasu 10s Title in a similar kick- off battle. But look out for the Gaijin next year.
The club later farewelled Mike Parks and wishes him all the best with his University studies back in England. Mike came to the club having only played that sport that closely mirrors gymnastics – soccer. He learnt a lot in the year and a bit that he was here so we hope he continues to play the sport they play in heaven when he settles back in.
Tokyo Gaijin Player of the Tournament: Apisai Bati.
For the Tokyo Gaijin:
Mike Parks (last game),