On the 19th October the Tokyo Gaijin RFC (TGRFC) were up against Koganei Green RFC in the 4th round of the Shuto League. The Koganei Club was the only team to beat the TGRFC in the previous season’s Shuto League (Season 2007). Koganei had played hard rugby and employed some “dirty” tactics to infuriate the TGRFC forwards the last time the two teams met with the Gaijin giving away penalty after penalty and ultimately the match. This game began with the intention to go in positive, and rise above the taunting actions and illegal plays, to play a positive game and not lose the referee.
Even from the outset it was clear the referee was intimidated when he spoke to the sides. He apparently did not have much experience at this level and no experience refereeing a “Gaijin” side, which put him automatically on the other teams` side, or at least gave them a good chance to get in his ear. Koganei for their part did not back down and once again seemed to be employing tactics to frustrate the Gaijin – taunting us into a meltdown, which very nearly worked late in the second half.
The game started with a hiss and a roar. Directly from Matt Downer`s kickoff the red-haired Koganei flanker (trying to be a Jerry Collins look-alike?) smashed his way into Kevin Rebay with a leading forearm. He was to do it a few more times and was never penalized for it but it certainly added some spice to the fixture. The ‘tough as teak’ Rebay got straight to his feet as though nothing had happened anyway. From the ensuing ruck outside the Koganei 22 meter line, the ball spilled out and the Koganei halfback strangely tried to kick it from the floor to his back line. The tactic backfired and the ball flew straight into the hands of a raging Rob Poulton who stormed toward the line. Poulton was brought down but the ball was quickly recycled to the backs, who attacked the left hand corner. Big Joe Nawaqavanua, with Kevin Rebay linked onto him and giving the big Fijian plenty of help, smashed his way through to open the scoring. Mr. Downer shanked the kick and the Gaijin were up 5- 0.
The Gaijin looked solid with ball in hand but it was clear from the early stages that the Koganei scrum had the better of them with their large props. The game was being played at a furious pace and the Koganei back line always looked dangerous. They won possession from a Gaijin knock on and attacked the Gaijins` right flank with their centers stepping in. It was Matt Downer who made several telling tackles and it was from a hugely forward pass that the Koganei winger was able to go over 10 meters from touch and even the score. The Koganei touch judge kept his mouth shut and the referee showed a blissful ignorance. They failed to convert leaving the scores locked at 5 v 5.
The Gaijin again pushed up the field with some strong drives. Momentum was with them as they stormed toward the posts – backs and forwards all getting a piece of the action. From a ruck Hitoshi Chihara – who looked sharp and was highly involved at halfback all day – swung the ball left to the blindside where Murray Clarke and Chris Fearon were ready to attack. Clarke, showing surprising pace, stormed at the defense and went over the try line in the tackle and the Gaijin were back in front. Mr. Downer must have used the wrong boot polish as he again shanked his kick, as he did again with a penalty not long after. The Gaijin were up 10-5.
Not long after though, a series of penalties from ruck infringements, and some concerted mauling from the Koganei pack was rewarded with a `soft’ try right up the middle of the Gaijin ruck. They again failed to convert and the score was tied up again at 10 v 10.
The Gaijin again came into Koganei territory thanks to some strong running by forwards, including Urban `ze German` Majewski and Rob Poulton. In particularly devastating form was the Frenchman Kevin Rebay who smashed his way through would be tacklers on many occasions and also showed up in defense making some bone-crunching tackles. With a penalty awarded 30 meters out not far from the line of the posts, Matthew Downer stepped up and finally found his kicking touch with a finely weighted kick to add 3 more points. Score 13 v 10 to the TGRFC.
The Koganei team knew the importance of going into the half with a confidence boosting lead and once again broke through the TGRFC forward pack on the fringes of the ruck to score and go into the halftime break up 17 v 13.
Both teams had looked good with the ball in hand and suffered from a few lapses around the fringes of the rucks and mauls. For Koganei, their nippy halfback was all over the place and constantly keeping the Gaijin defenders guessing with some clever sniping runs at the defensive line. For the Gaijin, Kevin Rebay had a stunning first half of non-stop tackling and some powerful runs. Guest player from the Beijing Devils Club , Urban ‘ze German’ Majewski from the Beijing Devils Club, had filled in admirably at prop against the big Koganei forwards as he usually plays hooker, but the Gaijin team was looking forward to getting big Justin ‘Scoobie’ Mynah out on the field in the second half after a 4 month ‘study sabbatical’ to boss the opposition big boys around.
The second half saw a freeze on scoring as both teams smashed into each other and frustration boiled over. On several occasions there were blatant ‘hands in the ruck’indiscretions and Koganei players lying on the ball (Editor`s note: And to be fair, probably a few Gaijin indiscretions too).
It took a long time for the Gaijin to pull it together but when things “clicked” there was a furious rush of intensity that the Koganei Green could not withstand. With 15 minutes remaining in a very physical encounter, the Gaijin were still down 17-13 and trapped in their corner with an opposition line out. The pressure was on and the Gaijin had failed to steal any Koganei ball as Gaijin timing and lifting was not yet in sync to disrupt the throw. On this occasion the lifters, Scoob and Kevin Rebay got the timing right and the jump was far enough back for Murray Clarke to snatch the ball. Clarke drove forward with Rebay in support. The next phases of pick and go came from Chris Fearon, Scoob and Hitoshi Chihara. A Gaijin kick brought play back to our 10-meter line where again the Gaijin team stole the ball and it was Kevin Rebay who charged through 3-4 tacklers to take play toward the Koganei half. The ball flew to the centers where new recruit Tsumugi ‘Aki’ Akiba made a storming run to bring the Gaijin to the oppositions` 22-meter line. Koganei were clearly tiring as play was still at a furious pace and the ball was going across the whole width of the pitch. The try was inevitable and it was from another ruck that Hitoshi Chihara sent the ball to a raging Paulo Berriozabal who crashed into several Koganei forwards and got a helping shunt from his pack to drive over the line. Credit to Erin Hughes and Scoob for the added momentum. This was the moment we knew we had the will to win this game but it was not over yet. After Downer converted the try: Score… 20-17 to the TGRFC.
The Gaijin were now on the front foot and could taste victory. From a ruck on the left about 30 metres out halfback Hitoshi Chihara passed to Joffa Harris who had a big charge but was brought down about 15 metres out from directly in front of the posts. Apisai Bati was first to the rescue and sensing an overlap gave quick ball out to fellow Fijian Saiki Naita who then offloaded to Jo Iwasaki and finally onto Yoichi Ohira who dotted down in the righthand corner. The try showed good teamwork with good supporting play and quick hands. Matt Downer was again successful with the difficult kick. Score: 27 v 17 to the Gaijin.
The Gaijin were to be next on the scoreboard when Yoichi Ohira picked up a scrappy pass that went to ground, on the right, and ran into the opposition 22. With the defense closing in on him he gave a clever little flick pass on the inside to Saki Naita in support. The change of direction absolutely bamboozled the Koganei defense and Naita was able to run around under the posts to dot down. Downer was again successful with the kick making the score 34 v 17 to the TGRFC.
Koganei was to have the last word as the Gaijin were penalized a few times for offside play just inside their 22-metre line. The replacement halfback took his chances, tapped the ball and went straight through the tiring and inattentive Gaijin forward pack to claim a 5 pointer. It was the last word but the Gaijin had the last laugh, as the kick sailed to the right of the posts leaving the TGRFC winners at: 34 v 22. Revenge is sweet!
Kevin Rebay had a ‘whale’ of a game. He was in the thick of everything both in attack and defense. Special mention also to Scoobie , Paulo deBerriozabal, Chris ‘Feral’ Fearon, and Rob Poulton who all had huge charges with ball in hand. Replacement backs Saki Naita, Tsumugi Akiba and Yoichi Ohira had strong second halves and Bati Apisai had one of his usual busy games.
Special mention must go to Blake Walker, making his comeback from a knee operation and 3 years out of the game. He came on near the end at fullback and got the team out of trouble with a booming kick.
Thanks to all helpers, especially Shino Iwasaki, who was seen running out onto the field with water for the boys, with 4 month old baby Suzu strapped to her front. That’s an early introduction to rugby, especially for a girl.
SCORE: TGRFC 34 (Joe Nawqavanua 1, Murray Clarke 1, Paulo de Berriozabal 1, Yoichi Ohira 1, Saki Naita 1 tries, Matt Downer 3/5 goals, 1/1penalties) Koganei Green RFC 22 (4 tries, 1/4 conversions)
Man of the Match – Kevin Rebay
Goat of the Match – ???
1.Rob Poulton (England)
2.Toru Kanamori (Japan)
3.Urban Majewski (Germany)
4.Murray Clarke (c) (New Zealand)
5.Will Thompson (Australia)
6.Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)
7.Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)
8.Kevin Rebay (France)
9.Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
10.Matt Downer (vc) (New Zealand)
11.Andy Ballard (England)
12.Rory Brown (South Africa)
13.Joe ‘Vandell’ Nawaqavanua (Fiji)
14. Apisai Bati (Fiji)
15.Adam Shockley (USA)
16.So Nagashima (Japan)
17.Chris Fearon (New Zealand)
18.Justin ‘Scoobie’ Mynah (USA)
19.Erin Hughes (USA)
20.Joffa Harris (Australia)
21. Niall Conlon (Britain)
22.Tsumugi Akiba (Japan)
23.Yoichi Ohira (Japan)
24.Saki Naita (Fiji)
25.Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)
26.Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
27.Blake Walker (New Zealand)