A strong 30 man squad gathered at Mizonokuchi Station at 8 a.m for the bus to take them on their long awaited tour to Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, to play Ashitaka RFC and Daen RFC in a three way tournament. The initial fixture was slated for March 12th, 2011, but was cancelled as it came just two days after the devaststing earthquake and subsequent tsunami that flattened northern Japan.
Team Administrator Yamagen had raved about the lush green grass pitch and had players salivating at the thought – probably only understood by those that have played on some of the horrible fields that we have here in Tokyo. It lived up to expectations with a thick green layer of grass. Rain had been falling throughout the previous 24 hours due to a typhoon having come through the night before. The weather was cooler than Tokyo but being close to the sea, still a tad humid.
The tournament was supposed to be a four-way event with the Gaijin putting in 2 teams against Daen RFC and hosts Ashitaka RFC but Daen struggled to get a full team so it was decided to join the two local teams together to play halves against both TGRFC squads.
The Gaijin, showing a bit of rustiness from over a month off from rugby, managed to power to a 61 v 24 victory on the backs of some fanatstic individual efforts, and some good running rugby – as opposed to structured team play and good defense.
The TGRFC started sloppily and let Ashitaka RFC in for an early try through numbers out wide and a simple draw and pass strategy. The Gaijin were still in ‘on the bus’ mode. The try was converted and Ashitaka RFC went out to an early 0 v 7 lead.
The Gaijin quickly got back into things with some good hands across the line. A string of forwards out on the left followed up on some good work by Hiro and Yamagen when the ball was passed out to Murray Clarke who drew the winger and passed off to Joffa Harris. Harris had the fullback to beat with Takeshi Ochiai on his outside. He chose to throw the dummy and the fullback bought it and Harris dived over to make the score 7 v 5 to Ashitaka RFC, after the conversion was missed.
The Gaijin were on the scoreboard again soon after with Joffa Harris running wide again and passing off to Nik Pasevic, who drew the last defender and gave Semi Leiene a free run to the corner. Once again the conversion was missed but the Gaijin had hit the front 10 v 7.
It was to be Wataru Murata that would score next after some excellent leadup work by Nik Pasevic. Pasevic made a powerful charge upfield pushing off a handful of tacklers and giving Murata an untouched run to the line. The scoreline was 15 v 7 after another unsuccessful conversion.
Ashitaka came back into the game with a strong charge by one of their backs up the side of the ruck and no defender in sight for an easy 15 metre run to the line. Score: 15 v 12 to the Gaijin.
Soon after the TGRFC forwards rolled a maul from a lineout taken by Murray Clarke just outside the 22 metre line, all the way to the tryline with Joffa Harris at the back to fall over the line and give him two for the game.. the conversion was missed yet again leaving the score 20 v 12 to the Gaijin.
From the kickoff Andy Ballard carved straight through the Ashitaka forward pack. After being brought down well inside the opposition’s territory, the ball was quickly recycled and ended in the hands of Nik Pavesic, who charged upfield breaking tackles and fending off others to score next to the posts in a 30 metre run. He left a trail of carnage and showed great leg drive and it was a just reward for a half of powerful rugby. Ikuo Fukuda took over the kicking from Toshi Miyano and finally the Gaijin were successful with a conversion. This left the halftime score at 27 v 12 to the Gaijin.
The half had been ‘pretty’ to watch as there was some good running rugby on show. Defense was certainly not a key element of the game thus far with the Gaijin side a little peeved about their defensive deficiencies, especially with some tough opposition coming up in the Shuto League. The forwards were well led by Nik Pavesic and locks Murray Clarke and Andy Ballard. The backs, while showing signs of potential, never seemed to really click.
The second half was to see an entirely different TGRFC side with a completely new team put out on the field. And they started like a house on fire with immediate results when Mosese Raresea busted threw the middle of the defense, drew the fullback and gave captain Alistair Nimmo a free run to the posts. Gaz Dalrymple converted to make the scoreline 34 v 12.
The next try to the Gaijin followed soon after when David Chan made a strong break on halfway. He passed off to Hitoshi Chihara, who set off on a jinking run, then threw to Alsitair Nimmo and finally back to Chan who finished what he started with a nice try.It was unconverted by Dalrymple to leave the score at 39 v 12.
The next try came from good work off a loose lineout. Andy Ballard took it to the line and Richard O’Shea went over the line from the back of the ensuing ruck. The conversion by Dalrymple was good to make the score 46 v 12.
Ashitaka finally stopped the one-way traffic when they were awarded a penalty close to the line for Gaijin players not rolling away from the tackle area and their forwards crashed over the line to make the score 46 v 17. The try was actually scored by Gaijin player Tommy Nasuno, who had entered the field for the other team when one of their props got injured.
Alistair Nimmo was to get his second try soon after when he knocked the ball out of the opposition No. 8’s hand at the back of the scrum 5 metres from their own line. Nimmo picke the ball up and strolled over to make the score 51 v 17 aftre Andy Ballard missed the conversion.
The Gaijin were at it again not mong aftre with Hitoshi Chihara making a good break down the line off a lineout. Great support play saw the ball go through a number of hands and it was daniel Worden who raced over the tryline to get his first try for the Gaijin. Ballard once again missed the conversion to leave the score at 56 v 19.
Mosese Raresea scored the Gaijin’s final try with an excellent bust up the side of the ruck and some good pace to go 30 metres to the tryline without the cover getting near him. Natsu Kunitomo stepped up to take the conversion but it was a pitiful effort….the story of the day when it came to goalkicking. Score: 61 v 19 to the Gaijin.
The hosts were to have the final say with a late try down the right flank after some tired tackling efforts by the Gaijin. They also missed their conversion to leave the final score 61 v 24 to the Tokyo Gaijin RFC.
It was an enjoyable day. The condition of the field obviously added to the sentiment and all were in agreement that it should become an annual tour. In the end the win was convincing with some excellent support play shown throughout the game, but the Gaijin leaders would have to be a bit worried about the lack of steel in defense.
Nik Pasevic was awarded the Man of the Match award for a non-stop display of power running. Others to shine in the forwards were Joseph, who made some strong bullocking runs and big tackles, and locks Andy Ballard, Murray Clarke and Richard O’Shea. In the backs Hitoshi Chihara and David Chan made some excellent ground with strong runs and Brian O’Brien showed a marked improvement in defense with some big tackles.
Score : TGRFC 61 (Joffa Harris 2, Alaister Nimmo 2, Nik Pavesic 1, Semi Leiene 1, Wataru Murata 1, David Chan 1, Richard O’Shea 1, Daniel Worden 1, Moses Rarasea 1 tries; T. Miyano 0/4 , G. Dalrymple 2/3 , A. Ballard 0/2, I. Fukuda 1/1, N. Kunitomo 0/1 conversions) Ashitaka/Daen RFC 24 (4 tries; 2 conversions)
Man of the Match : Nikola Pavesic
First Half Team :
1. Ismael (Spain)
2. Tommy Nasuno (Japan)
3. Chris Lucas (Australia)
4. Murray Clarke (NZ)
5. Andy Ballard (c) (England)
6. Takeshi Ochia (Japan)
7. Nikola Pavesic (Croatia)
8. Joffa Harris (Australia)
9. Tristan O’Connor (Australia)
10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)
11. Hiro (Japan)
12. Epi (Fiji)
13. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
14. Wataru Murata (Japan)
15. Yamagen (Japan)
2nd Half Team:
1. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
2. Gaz Dalrymple (Scotland)
3. Natsuhiko Kunitomo (Japan)
4. Richard O’Shea (Wales)
5. Andy Ballard (England)
6. Joseph (Fiji)
7. Daniel Worden (NZ)
8. Takashi (Japan)
9. Alaister Nimmo (c) (England)
10. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
11. Brian O’Brien (USA)
12. David Chan (Australia)
13. Daisuke Ikegami (Japan)
14. Alan (England)
15. Semi Leiene (Fiji)
Reserve: Enoki (Fiji)