The Tokyo Gaijin continued their winning ways with a comprehensive 34 v 7 defeat of Idemitsu Oil RFC in an Ichihara League game.
With a training day arranged for the Shuto LeagAue Select team for the NZ Ambassadors Cup the Gaijin turned up to the beautifully manicured and green (rare in Tokyo!) Chiharadai Field way out in woop-woop Chiba missing 10 regular players (Justin ‘scoobie’Mynah, Rob Poulton, Kevin Rebay, Paulo de Berriozabal, Alaister Nimmo, Saki Naita, Joe Nawaqavanua, Apisai Bati, Amir Yassari, & Andy Ballard). The TGRFC Club still managed to get a decent squad together and it was a chance to give some of the ‘greener’ players a chance to shine. The team was welcoming back Dan Salter & Riki Pitter after long absences due to injury & sickness. Pitter was to join Hitoshi Chihara in an untried centre combination. Mauro Sauco was also returning to the Gaijin fold after 6 months working in China and making the odd guest appearance for the Beijing Devils RFC until injury reared its ugly head and forced him to take a 5 month rest from the game.
Idemitsu Oil started well and it felt like they were going to provide a stern test. What`s more, early in the game fullback Blake Walker made 2 uncharacteristic mistakes, dropping a pass and then moments later knocking on a rolling kick through from the opposition. (It was confirmed later that Walker had had a big night the night before and had spent a good part of the morning getting rid of stomach contents that disagreed with him).
Things looked better for the Gaijin when Hitoshi Chihara took an intercept just outside his own 22 metre line and raced away to what looked like an easy try. Chihara, however, was run down by a lock just on the opposition 22 metre line. (Too many cigarettes??). A quick recycing of the ball saw it go through the hands from Murray Clarke to Dave Kelver to So Nagashima then Riki Pitter and back to Kelver and finally to Blake Walker down the wing. His flick ball back inside to his supports was intercepted and rushed into touch with the boot. Takeshi Ochiai took the lineout and lobbed it to Kelver who went on a charge down the blind. Some more quick ruck ball saw the Idemitsu defense struggling and they were eventually pinged for being offside. Matt Downer took a quick penalty tap and passed to Clarke who cut back inside and passed to Takayuki Kitajima who crashed the ball up and then So Nagashima had a crack at the line towards the posts. The defense held but with a lot of defenders tied up at the ruck and still getting back from previous tackles there was a lot of open space out to the right. This was spotted by halfback Brown and the ball was quickly recycled to the right from Clarke to Downer then to Riki Pitter who raced across the try line unopposed to score next to the goal posts. Downer converted to make the score 7 v 0 to the TGRFC.
Soon after Downer was in the action again with a big hit to stop a raid down the left side of the field. This galvanized the Gaijin who scrambled in defense and managed to get the ball back through some concerted pressure.
A switch from a scrum on halfway not too long after saw Blake Walker tear down the right side of the field. As he was caught by the defense he managed to slip the ball to Downer who chipped ahead. Downer was narrowly beaten to the ball but good defense kept the Idemitsu Club pinned inside their own 22 metre line. Good rucking by Clarke and Mauro Sauco ensured that the Gaijin won some vigorously competitive rucks. A ‘sneaky’ run by Takeshi Ochiai, showing the guile of a halfback with a few dummies to fool the defense, saw him make good yards up the centre of the ruck, then a double cutout pass from Downer to Blake Walker saw Walker go across the line 5 metres in from touch down the left.This gave Walker two tries in two (full) games since a 3 year absence due to knee injuries followed by a couple of 5 minute cameos. Downer missed the conversion to make the score 12 v 0.
Idemitsu Oil, in their quest to stay in the game, hit back ten minutes before half time. The Gaijin line didn’t hold and with a lot of Gaijin forwards beginning to walk the Idemitsu Club found an overlap down their right to race in, despite Walker’s desperate tackle on the tryline. The Idemitsu goal kicker was unable to convert leaving the score at 12 v 5.
This was to remain the score until half time after ten minutes of end to end play. One could not help but feel that the Gaijin were starting to get on top. For the Gaijin the forwards had worked well together and had generally supported each other well in tight play. Dave Kelver and Takeshi Ochiai were probably the pick of the forwards as they popped up everywhere. Rory Brown at halfback was constantly sniping at the side of rucks and Hitoshi Chihara had made some good runs at inside centre.
It was to be Dave Kelver who got the score board ticking again in the second half as he capitalised on good hands and support play to go over the tryline in a tackle on the right.Downer was unsuccessful with the conversion so the score remained at 17 v 5.
Soon after Downer put in a beautiful cross field kick that was perfectly weighted to land just inside the Idemitsu goal line. Thomas Jay (TJ) was first on the spot and looked like he would get his first try for the TGRFC but a lack of urgency proved detrimental as the Idemitsu winger attacked the bouncing ball and beat TJ to it. Soon after, TJ was in the thick of the action again when he looked like he was going to score down the wing after a long ball from Downer. He got caught though, but did manage to slip the ball back into Hitoshi Chihara who ran around to score midway between posts and sideline. Why he didn`t keep going to score under the post was the question on everyone’s mind as Downer missed the conversion again. Score 22 v 5 to the Gaijin.
The next opportunity for the Gaijin was a ruck 5 metres out from the Idemitsu try line. Their scrum disintegrated and Gaz Dalrymple picked up and went blind and dived over next to the corner flag only for the referee to blow his whistle and call him back as the scrum had turned 90 degrees/fallen apart. Soon after this Lonnie Childress had a good 30 metre run to the try line down the left wing. He was tackled by the cover defense as he went for the corner and slammed the ball down. The ball bounced up making the referee, without the help of camera replays, believe that the ball had been bounced or knocked on. No try given! Next it was Rory Brown`s turn to blow a try. At the back of a ruck about a metre from the try line all Brown had to do was pick the ball up and fall over the line. As he did so though, he lost the ball forward and another try was lost.
Brown made up for his mistake moments later when a scrum didn`t go to plan for the Idemitsu team. The ball shot out the side from their scrum feed and Brown, who is forever hassling opposition halfbacks, picked it up and ran ten metres to score. Downer was again unsuccesssful with the kick to make the score 27 v 5.
As the Gaijin started to take full control of the game things got a bit sloppy as everyone started to see a try in front of them. Balls that probably should have been passed to supports were held and the ruck area started to get a bit scrappy. The final try of the game came from quick hands from Joffa Harris to Downer, who lofted a cutout pass to Takayuki Kitajima.
Prop forward Kitajima had plenty of support but fooled his opposition by choosing to run himself and cut back infield and score under the posts on an angled run. Downer capped off a good match (despite the average goal kicking game) by stabbing the kick over to make the final score 34 v 5.
Takeshi Ochiai was chosen as Man of the Match for some excellent runs and great grass-cutter tackles. He completely overshadowed his opposition in the lineouts as well. Sharing the award with him was winger Lonnie Childress who had a mistake-free game (after a few doozies recently!!) and covered a lot of ground with some excellent winding runs. The rest of the forwards did well in the ‘pick and drive’ and close field support game and the Gaijin scrum was dominant. Argentinian man mountain Mauro Sauco (who tells me he is 120kgs now but looked 130kgs due to the long layoff) did well and managed to stay on the field for most of the match. In the backs Matt Downer had his usual strong game and Rory Brown was a constant thorn in the oppositions’side. Riki Pitter and Hitoshi Chihara worked well together as centre partners and made a lot of good breaks.
SCORE: TGRFC 34 (R. Pitter 1, B. Walker 1, D. Kelver 1, H. Chihara 1, R. Brown 1, T.Kitajima 1 tries, M.Downer 2/6 goals) IDEMITSU OIL 5.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Takeshi Ochiai & Lonnie Childress
GOAT OF THE MATCH: Rory Brown
Mike Tokue (Scotland/Japan)
So Nagashima (Japan)
Takayuki Kitajima (Japan)
Mauro Sauco (Argentina)
Takeshi Ochiai (Japan)
Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)
Dave Kelver (USA)
Murray Clarke (c)(New Zealand)
Rory Brown (South Africa)
Matt Downer (vc)(New Zealand)
Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)
Hitoshi Chihiro (Japan)
Riki Pitter (France)
Lonnie Childress (USA)
Blake Walker (New Zealand)
Chris Lucas (Australia)
Dan Salter (England)
Joffa Harris (Australia)
Thomas Jay (The Philippines)
Jo Iwasaki (Japan)