Last weekend (2nd December) in Rugby, The Tokyo Gaijin (TGRFC) met a fierce Keiyo Liners team(a combination of Chiba Barbarians – who have always been hard, and Akanegahama)in Chiba. Despite the long journey the Gaijin talked and kept hopes alive about remaining unbeaten since the Summer break in League Games, even with out almost 10 of their usual starters. 7 men were lost to the Shuto Select Side in their annual game against the Tama Select Side for the New Zealand Embassy Cup. A few more were out taking the Japanese Proficiency test. Then there was the usual few out with work commitments or injuries. Still the mood was upbeat.
Warm ups commenced followed by some quick line out practices for the forwards, and intricately worked backs' moves. It could not be helped to note that something was not quite right.
The game opened up with a bang and some hard hitting was done on both sides. The Gaijin forward pack, led by the strong front row of Hiroaki Kitahara, Rob Poulton, and Takayuki Kitajima and well supported by veterans Joffa Harris and Murray Clark and new comer Dan Salter steam-rolled the Liners scrum almost every time. Watching the liners forwards simply stand up, fall down or get bent in 1/2 was an image worthy of a highlight reel.
The first half saw 2 tries from the Gaijin. The first was from Tomoaki Miyazawa, who picked up a loose Liners ball, and sprinted away to outpace 2 Liners for a try. The following kick was not converted.
The second try was scored by captain Alaister Nimmo, who stormed across the try line after an inside pass from Joffa Harris to score untouched next to the post. However, once again, the try was not converted.
With 2 tries for the liners, the halftime score was 10v10. It had been a tough half and if both teams could keep up the same type of hard-running and hard-tackling play it was going to be a tight match
First try of the second half went to the Keiyo Liners who passed the ball along the line from the kickoff and one of their players managed to waltz right through the TGRFC back-line without a hand being laid upon him. It was quite embarrassing. Steve Bull was one of the covering defenders to fail to get to the man. In his defense he hadn`t played since February and it was only his second game at halfback ever.
The Gaijin once again pegged back the lead to be down only 17v15 when little Hitoshi Chihara took a quick tap from a penalty, while ignoring the cries of his teammates to kick for touch. The Keiyo Liners were ready to defend their line should a big Gaijin forward step up for a charge. Thinking that Chihara was stepping up to kick for touch the Liners may have relaxed, or maybe the move plain surprised them as Chihara charged straight at their forward pack. They stepped off their line to meet him but he blast through the middle of their forward pack to dot down over the line. Once again the conversion was not successful.
The celebrations were short lived when feeble defense out wide let the Liners back in for a try. The Liners were back in the driver's seat.
The term "SWITCHED ON" is not one that could be applied to the Gaijin in the second half – careless mistakes and missed tackles cost us the game. One particularly horrible try came from an over thrown ball in the line out that we all watched in awe as it blissfully sailed over others hands and heads to land in the palms of a Liner who seemed just as shocked as we were that he caught it. The ensuing run earned him a try and it could be said that at least 5 Gaijin players (yours truly included “Erin”) could/SHOULD have HAMMERED him straight to the ground.
The Keiyo Liners went on to post another 3 tries as they found a weak point amongst the fairly new Gaijin back three combination and realized they weren't getting the support of their cover defenders. They began to boot the ball down field and trap the Gaijin in their own half. Easy turn-over ball from some very poor placement by the Gaijin players and weak security played into the Liners` hands. Then all that was needed was possibly the worst defending of the year from the tiring Gaijin players for the Keiyo Liners to walk away with what was an easy win in the end, despite the promise of a close game at half-time.
With less then 3 minutes left in the game the Gaijin tried to mount a come back off a short Alaister Nimmo kick off, but it was too little too late. For the Gaijin, Tomoaki Miyazawa looked dangerous every time he had the ball in midfield. Al Nimmo had an enterprising game at standoff and Hitoshi Chihara was a regular jack-in-the-box. The forwards absolutely steam-rolled the Keiyo Liners forward pack in the scrums in the first half but then a few injuries and a few replacements seemed to change the momentum. Takayuki Kitajima was his usual power-pack self and Dan Salter had a good game running off the back of the scrum at 8. The forwards` fitness began to tell in the second half with the Keiyo pack beating them to the breakdown too easily.
SCORE: Keiyo Liners 37 TGRFC 15 (T. Miyazawa 1, A. Nimmo 1, H. Chihara 1 tries)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Tomoaki Miyazawa and Dan Salter.
GOAT OF THE MATCH: Steve for his first full game back and a few great missed tackles. The old legs just aren`t as fast as they used to be! In reality the whole team needed to scull one…..
1. Hiroaki Kitahara (Japan)
2. Rob Poulton (England)
3. Takayuki Kitajima (Japan)
4. Mauro Sauco (Argentina)
5. Murray Clarke (New Zealand)
6. Joffa Harris (Australia)
7. Dave Kelver (USA)
8. Dan Salter (England)
9. Steve Bull (England)
10. Alaister Nimmo (England)
11. So Nagashima (Japan)
12. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
13. Tomoaki Miyazawa (Japan)
14. Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)
15. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
16. Erin Hughes (USA)
17. Arthur Strang (England)
18. Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)
19. Lawrence Hii (Australia)
20. Lonnie Childress (USA)
21. Amir Hashemi (USA)