Date: 17th February 2008
Opposition; Ichikawa Rush
League: Champion’s League – as winners of the Shuto League with 5 out of 6 wins the Tokyo Gaijin were to represent that league in a knockout Champion’s League. First up opposition were Ichikawa Rush who were Champions of the Ichihara League (Chiba).
From the very beginnings of the game there were warning signals that we in attendance at the game on this chilliest of days, may have visited upon us the infamous TGRFC Bogeyman. Many teams besides TGRFC also seem to be vexed by their own on occasion; in the case of our own venerable club, as recently as two years ago, there seemed to be not one, but at least two or three actually in residence within the team (whether or not it is mere coincidence that his/their existence is numerically identical to that of the Sydney and Adelaide contingent** in the team may be a matter too controversial, emotional and divisive to devote much time to given the restraints of space and time in producing a not too lengthy, but precise nonetheless, match report. (Watch out for a piece on that at a later date!)
From the very beginnings of the game there were warning signals The Warning Signals:
The two teams squared-off for the FIRST HALF in the knowledge that only the winners would be advancing through to the next round of this Champion of Champions competition. TGRFC, on paper at least, could be confident that their recent results in and out of the league games had put them in good stead to take the game out if they continued to play the same type of tight focused rugby. While not quite attaining the rank of ‘Champagme Rugby’, the standard reached over the duration of this particular Winter campaign may well be considered to have been stellar (Artois)*** nonetheless… with luck, it will prove to be an evolutionary tale… Today ale… in the coming Crusades… Dom Perignon**** (at least!)
All feelings of invincibility though were put severely to the test when Steve Bull, the makeshift halfback replacing a critically ill regular captain Alaister Nimmo, lost the ball forward at his first touch… (The Bogeyman is now positioned stage left). This unconscionable misdeed was later matched, but not exceeded by our usually superlative lineout jumper, who shall remain nameless*****, due to the accolade he later received in securing ‘Goat-of-the-Day’****** award.
The fumbles continued unabated which was more than reflected in the statistics showing that three scrums had been put down within the first two minutes only slightly bettered by lineouts accounting for four stoppages within the first five minutes.
Upon receiving a penalty near halfway shortly thereafter, it was used to gain territory down the right flank rather than trying to take a very doubtful attempt at three points given the cross-field blast direct from the Arctic. The ball into touch at the 25m line. The resulting possession had the Gaijin pressing forward to the opposition line only to have the ball scrambled away into their right-side touch. At this stage of the game, TGRFC were looking sharper and more likely to string something together in the scoring stakes. After the first 15 minutes, the game had been played 70% in the opposition’s half, which loosely translated means that despite being over them like the proverbial rash, a certain ‘clinical finishing’ was sadly lacking in just how all of the possession was being used.
The game was now fast becoming one of those very unsatisfactory ‘even contests’ where neither team can garner any forward momentum … bywords for frustration and frayed tempers. The quality of the game fabric though did ‘threaten’ to improve at times… but as the half-time score suggests (if you skim ahead), it didn’t happen in the first 40 minutes.
For the remainder of the half, nothing really changed… No patterns were established in the play of either side. The later-to-score-two-tries-in-the-second half-at-a-trot Garrett made one charge for their line but was held up short.
Joffa Harris, drawing on many years of experience on the Tokyo and environs battlefields, decided to manfully take the game by the horns and the rest is, as they say in his faraway homeland, ‘ ”history mate” ’. Picture it if you will; this usually gritty, hands-on and no holds barred rugby wandering minstrel nonchalantly picking the ball up from between his toes at the back of the scrum, to then gracefully tip-toe past a few desperate but confused defenders to cross the line in a handy position close to the uprights. Not handy enough apparently… … The referee subsequently turned down Harris’s appeal that it should have been a ‘gimme’ conversion after seeing the attempt barely rise above the vegetation.
Several minutes later from a similar position to before near the opposition’s 10-yard line, history repeated itself but the silky footwork of Joffa this time yielded no change to the score line… …
The Ichikawa Rush scored a converted try after 25 minutes and it seemed that the Bogeyman was indeed going to be a determining force on this day as well.
That fabric was beginning to unravel… The half ran down with the gaijin who despite having a clear ‘talent advantage’, not managing to do anything with passion, flair or enterprise save for the lone try. The question of course on everyone’s lips was whether the game was going to come alight in the second half or remain an unmemorable tit-for-tat affair with no substance but plenty of ‘air-kicks’ and muffed ones too (the list is long… Murray (classic!) … the rightful recipient indeed!!! , Andy).
The Ichikawa Rush were able to get across the Gaijin line one more time before halftime to go into the halftime break with a 12 v 5 lead.
THE SECOND HALF got under way with an air of quiet expectation. Unfortunately, due to another wind-aided bungled clearance, the opposition notched up another try complete with conversion to take an even handier lead. It might be pointed out at this stage that, the God of the Wind, along with the referee, had apparently thrown in his lot with the other team. This was due to it’s having changed direction to become yet another cynical factor in an anticipated TGRFC downfall.
‘Twas not to be so on this day me laddie… For this half was to be largely dominated by a resurgent Gaijin team who appeared to have found some rhythm from deep inside their collective rugby soul… … they were undeniable in the many assaults they made at the opposition line. Perhaps their ascension to the throne was punctuated by just the one lapse in purpose during which time the regular team supporters were no doubt biting their collective finger-nails and pacing up and down the sidelines as team member Sou Nagashima had no doubt been pacing up and down the maternity ward earlier in the week vigilantly awaiting the birth of his first of a whole tribe of future ‘Cherry Blossoms’. … Well done Sou!!! The TGRFC is 100% behind you and J.K. Long may you all prosper!!
Back to the rugby…
During the lapse, the opposition centre was able to finish off one well-worked/slick backline movement from the halfway line.
Somewhat overdue, Gaijin finally battened down the hatches to not only weather the storm of indifference and ineptitude but to also emerge dancing once those same storm clouds had been breached. The ensuing performance was a re-dramatization of those immortal words from the mouth of the legend from Louisville… ‘ “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” ‘. It proved to be a victory, which could well re-define the team in the seasons ahead. It was merciless until the final bell, or in this case, whistle. ‘Clinicality’ arrived and the dreaded Bogeyman is now very firmly sealed inside of his glass prison.
The second half tries were scored as a result of fluidity, grace, slight of hand and that perceivable ‘talent advantage’. They came thick and fast and almost at will. Steve Bull got over the line after a storming run upfield by Joffa Harris from a kickoff. The subsequent kickoff was taken by Garrett Washington who charged into the opposition`s territory and found Yoichi Ohira in support. Ohira knocked away a few would-be tacklers and then gave the ball back to Washinton who scored under the posts. There was no answer… no denying the Gaijin their ‘day in the sun’. May this be a mere preamble to catching the real bounty two games later … Once again keeping focused, putting it all together both days and reaping the ultimate reward.
Had the TGRFC kicking been more successful from the start, the score may well have reached sixty. The tries were generally speaking, crafted by many pairs of hands. Mauro Sauco once again had opposition players falling off of him as water most surely cascades off of a duck’s back. Garrett Washington deservedly the man of the match, showed good balance and timing to secure his two tries as did Fijian flyer Semi Leiene.
F.T. 43-19 to the Tokyo Gaijin.
* Literary licence sport.
** This is not discrimination against the Ozzies…really!!!
*** A lame attempt at a pun pertaining to the now legendary Belgian tipple.
**** A famous maker of Champers (Champy in Oz?)
***** Murray Clarke has been burned for downing all the beer in his can before carrying out the sacred ceremony of emptying a good third of it on his head as laid down in the TGRFC Constitution. (No Murray, unlike G.W.B., we feel that it is not ‘ ”only a piece of paper” ’ and must be obeyed in toto (imagery has no connection to latrines incidentally and I bear no responsibility for such connotations)…
****** Title speaks for itself. Some of the politer synonyms may include dipstick, dickhead etc