April 21st 2019
Tokyo Cup 2019 Round 1: Tokyo Gaijin RFC vs Setagaya RFC
Cup season is upon us and the Gaijin got off to a flyer against an aging, yet physical Setagaya side. As the teams lined up for the (ridiculously long) pre match briefing, the Gaijin exchanged a few sideward glances at one another. Had they been drawn against Setagaya old boys in the first round? Where they being lured into a false sense of security before the game? Was this a vintage Setagaya masterminded plan in action, before unleashing the spring chickens at the first whistle?
Turns out no.
In any case, in spite of their geriatric opposition the Gaijin were not prepared to take it easy, especially not on a day of cup footy. A romping start to the test, followed by a second half of ringing the changes, saw the Gaijin come out convincing 69-7 winners.
Number 8, Mosese Rarasea, got the game underway with a well-placed kick-off, immediately putting the Gaijin on the front foot. After 4 minutes of extended territorial pressure, the Gaijin crossed for their first try. Wing, Taku Eguchi, went over on the right-hand side of the pitch after some lovely hands across the backline. Daisuke Teraoka would fail to convert the try, but the tone had been set for the day.
7 minutes later the Gaijin got their second score. A turnover on half way left acres of space on the open side. It was time for the Gaijin’s other wing, Masato Fujita, to get in on the action, with a blistering run under the sticks from 40m out. Teraoka was successful with the conversation. 12-0.
On the 25-minute mark the Gaijin scored again, putting some real breathing space between the two sides. Scrum-half, David McElhinney, put the Gaijin down into the Setagaya danger zone with a clever box kick. After a few stop-start set pieces, the Gaijin maul crashed over with Mosese Rarasea claiming the spoils. Teraoka expertly slotted the conversion from out wide. 19-0.
4 minutes later the big Fijian was on the scoreboard again. The Gaijin had a lineout in the same area of the park, though this time Rarasea broke from the back of the proceeding maul, shrugging off a few tackles on his way to the line. Teraoka missed the conversation, but at 24-0 with plenty of time left on the clock, it looked like a cricket score was on the cards.
But in true Gaijin fashion, they decided it was time to give the opposition a faint glimmer of a hope. A string of missed tackles, involving most of the Gaijin’s starting 15, led to a Setagaya try—which was nearly followed by a bust-up courtesy of vice-captain, Tom McCullough. After the minor ruckus had been defused, Setagaya converted the try, leaving the scores at 24-7.
The Gaijin would have the final say of the half however, through Jay Muarasa. The blind-side flanker scored underneath the posts on the stroke of the half after a turnover inside Setagaya’s 22′. It was a deserved score after his excellent first-half display. Teraoka slotted the simple conversion for a commanding 31-7 lead at the interval.
The second half saw an early score from the Gaijin which seemed to take the wind entirely out of Setagaya’s sails. While they kept battling to the end, the tired, aging legs began to show, and the final score line reflected it.
Mosese Rarasea scooped up a loose Setagaya pass to score his hat-trick under the posts after just 5 minutes of play in the second half. Teraoka converted to make the scores 38-7.
A few minutes later the Gaijin had yet another 7 points on the board. The try probably should have come through Tom McCullough who ran the length of the field before tripping over his shoelaces and spilling ball just short of the line. Thankfully substitute, Hirotomo Ono, was able to capitalise on the territorial gain by side steeping his way to the line during the next phase of play. Teraoka converted again. 45-7.
On the 58th minute mark, Murasa scored his second try of the game. A defensive blunder from Setagaya led to an easy run in for the flanker. Teraoka wouldn’t convert this time. 50-7.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, another Setagaya handling error led to the Gaijin’s next try. Hirotomo Ono scored his second 5-pointer of the day with a—more or less uncontested—70m run to the line. Teraoka missed again. 55-7.
A few minutes later Tom McCullough made amends for his earlier butchery. The open-side flanker ran in from 50m out after a scything counter-attack from full-back, Ryosuke Okawara. Teraoka found his kicking boots again, making the scores 62-7.
David McElhinney would score the last try of the game, after a stray ball bounced into his hands right underneath the Setagaya uprights following some scrappy play. It’s the easiest try he’ll score all year. Teraoka converted to make the scores 69-7, completing the Gaijin’s rampant day at the office.
The final whistle blew several minutes later bringing a close to what was ultimately a rather anti-climatic affair. It was a solid start to the Tokyo Cup, but the hope all round is that more competitive opposition will be awaiting the Gaijin just over the horizon. As always, slight game plan tweaks will be necessary going forward, but all in all, there’s very little to be concerned about in camp Gaijin.
MVP: Tom McCullogh (stellar game in attack and defense, even though he nearly nabbed himself a match goat accolade in the process)
SPECIAL MENTION: Mosese Rarasea (Hat-trick hero with less than 50 minutes on the clock)
GOAT: Natsuhiko Kunitomo (Forgot the water bottles on a piping hot day)