Low, dark clouds, a hint of rain, a steady and cold breeze; think Scotland on a good day. Further, heavy rain throughout Saturday and overnight meant a muddy pitch with large pools of water so the conditions set the tone for the Sunday`s match.
Baku & Clover (B & C) made a ferocious start and hammered away at the TGRFC line but solid defense kept them at bay. This was truly character-building stuff for had the Gaijin conceded early points it might have been difficult for them to chase the game. The Gaijin task became more difficult after Chris Fearon had to leave the pitch with a suspected dislocated shoulder but Takayuki Kitajima stepped in manfully and the scrum held firm.
Slowly but surely, the B & C attacks faltered and the Gaijin forced their way back up the pitch. The tactics of keep-the-ball-with-the-forwards -and-maul-it-as-far-as-possible-downfield were spot-on. Around the 15minute mark B & C conceded a penalty in what appeared to be a kickable position and so your writer was a little puzzled to see the ball kicked into touch for a Gaijin throw. However, with the ball secured from the line-out and the rolling maul once more employed, it was now the turn of the other side to defend. They couldn't hold out and after some concerted rolling mauls Apisai Bati went over for a try in the far corner. The conversion was missed and it was also apparent why the earlier kick at goal had been declined. The Gaijin were up 5v0 though and the score stayed the same until halftime.
The second-half started well for the Gaijin. Ball was secured and a quick pass out to Yoichi Ohira gave him time to place a highly accurate cross-kick. Hitoshi Chihara raced onto it, the bounce was kind, and he ran it in from around 30 metres.
For much of the second-half B & C tried to make inroads into the Gaijin half but the defence remained rock-solid. Rarely was a tackle missed and with the Gaijin pack well-organised and heavier than their opponents (substantially heavier in one or two cases) B & C began to tire. The final whistle came and the Gaijin`s undefeated record in the Shuto League remained intact.
A good victory for the Gaijin had to beat not just the opponents, but the conditions as well. Whilst handling was always going to be difficult, it was trying to remain upright that proved equally difficult. Often the backs of both sides sensed a gap but lost footing and so promising attacks came to nought.
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Tyler Rumsey : for his tackling and speed at rucks and mauls.
Goat of the Match: Toru Kanamori : for overcalling Al Nimmo on a bomb and then letting the ball bounce and go into touch.
Takayuki for stepping in at prop.
Toru for mobility around the pitch and for accurate throwing in the line-out
Rob Poulton for tackling and scrum work
Joffa for stamina and determination
Gaz, Dave Kelver and Garret for fine back row work
Alaister Nimmo; good tackling and quick delivery
Yoichi tried to get the backs moving and for accurate kicking
Bati for some fine running and making good yards in difficult conditions
Jo ran well and supported Bati when attacks were made
Hitoshi took his chance well
Andy Ballard read the game well and was always in the right position to field the opposition kicks.
Subs. Congratulations to Rico, Will and Ricky for making their debuts.
We would like to thank the Ref, Simon-san for letting the game flow despite the conditions.
Goat – Sadly no-one made a truly memorable cock-up. No sliced kicks or missed tackles of note. So the winner of the Goat award must be given to Andy Ballard for volunteering me into writing this report.
(Note from Editor: Goat was later jointly given to Toru Kanamori & Andy Ballard jointly)
1.Chris Fearon (NZ)
2.Toru Kanamori (Japan)
3.Takayuki Kitajima (Japan)
4.Joffa Harris (Australia)
5.Tyler Rumsey (USA)
6.Dave Kelver (USA)
7.Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)
8.Garrett Washington (USA)
9.Alaister Nimmo (England)
10.Yoichi Ohira (Japan)
11.Riki Pitter (France)
12.Apisai Bati (Fiji)
13.Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
14.Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
15.Andy Ballard (England)
16.Rob Poulton (England)
17.Will Thompson (Australia)
18.Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)
19.Erin Hughes (USA)
20. Lawrence Hii (Australia)
21. Lonnie Childress (USA)
22. Hiroyuki Sato (Japan)
23. Vicente (Vico) Martinez (Paraguay)