Gaijin win in Try-fest
Timeline: May26th, 2019
After winning their first round Tokyo Cup game for 2019 to the tune of 69 v 7, the Tokyo Gaijin RFC found it much tougher against Yellowbacks RFC eventually winning 59 v 34 in a high-scoring affair.
The game was held at Okudo Stadium near Aoto station under temperatures in the mid-30’s. There were 15 tries in all as players struggled in the sapping heat. The Yelllowbacks started strongly and took the early lead but the Gaijin managed to wrestle it back and go into the halftime break in front 24 v 17 and then managed to stretch the lead to a 21 point advantage (38 v 17) before the Yellowbacks came roaring back to within four points. The Gaijin then ran away with the game at the end mostly due to the efforts of livewire outside centre Hirotomo Ono.
The Yellowbacks were on the scoreboard after only 4 mins after their lock strolled through some poor defense to score to the right of the posts. They looked like scoring even earlier after a clever chip kick was regathered by one of their outside backs but an excellent cover tackle from behind by Gaijin captain Louie Hamilton momentarily stopped Yellowbacks momentum. With the successful conversion they led 0 v 7 and the Gaijin had not even woken up yet.
Louie Hamilton was leading by example again when he regained the kickoff and further phases saw the Gaijin push into the Yellowbacks 22 metre area. From a lineout following a penalty to the Gaijin a strong rolling maul seemed to be purposefully collapsed just centimetres short of the try line but Hiroshi Fukusawa picked up from the back and dived over saving the referee from making a decision. The unsuccessful conversion had the Gaijin behind 5 v 7.
In the 11th minute a nice floated pass from prop Tomohiro Setoguchi, sea gulling in the backline, put Hamilton in space. He passed on to Hirotomo Ono, who drew the last defender, and gave Masato Fujita a trouble-free run to the line. The Gaijin were in front 10 v 7 by the 12th minute, despite the unsuccessful conversion by Daisuke Teraoka.
In the 18th minute Yellowbacks regained the lead after a dubious line out penalty led to another lineout and they managed to crash over the line from a rolling maul. The unsuccessful conversion left them with a slender 10 v 12 lead.
The next 10 minutes were the only ten minutes of the game without tries as both teams made half breaks but then invariably ruined their good work by knocking on or taking poor options.
At the 29 minute mark of the half the ball was swung from right to left from a lineout across to the other side of the field where the Yellowbacks winger (No.11) scooted down the wing untouched to score a 30 metre try. Poor man on man marking from the Gaijin led to them being a converted try behind at 10 v 17 down.
The Yellowbacks knocked the short kickoff on under immense pressure forcing a scrum. The Gaijin spent the next few minutes banging away at the try line but good defense kept them out. Yellowbacks then began to edge out of the danger zone and were 10 metres from halfway when a clearance kick was charged down by Gaijin halfback David McElhinney . McElhinney got a favorable bounce and ran in to score the first of his hat trick. Teraoka’s conversion levelled the scores at 17 v 17
A minute before the halftime whistle, Hirotomo Ono made a good break. As he approached the fullback he passed inside to the supporting Jay Murase who dummied the cover defender and ran 30 metres to score under the posts. Teraoka converted and the referee blew his whistle for halftime putting the Gaijin up 24 v 17 at the break.
It had been a topsy-turvey game thus far. The Gaijin seemed slow to the breakdown and were always second to the loose ball. The heat was certainly draining but it seemed to be affecting the Gaijin more than their opposition. Or was it just fitness? The temptation to make multiple changes at the break was ignored with just Takashi Itoigawa coming on for Akira Tachibana on the wing.
Captain Louie Hamilton had saved the Gaijin bacon numerous times with excellent grass-cutting cover tackles. He would need his forwards to lift and give him more support in the second half. Thus far the Yellowbacks had managed to contain Hirotomo Ono with good defense of their own but one had the feeling he was threatening to cut loose.
The Gaijin started the second half strongly and two good breaks gained them 30 to 40 metres but each time the last pace was knocked on. Eventually the promise led to points when a nice short pass from standoff Daisuke Teraoka led to fullback Ryosuke Okawara cruising into a gap and passing off to McElhinney on the inside for his second. Teraoka converted and the Gaijin were in front by two converted tries (31 v 17).
In the tenth minute Daisuke Teraoka left the field with blood pouring from his nose. He went to the blood-bin but that would be the end of him for this game. Guille Alonso came on to replace him. A couple of minutes later Louie Hamilton would also hobble off and be replaced by big Fijian centre Sovita Tui. Hamilton had put in a typical captain’s knock and his defense would be missed in mid-field.
Both replacements made an instant impact with Alonso making a good twenty metre run and setting up some go-forward. In the 15th minute Sovita Tui offloaded in a 2 man tackle to Hirotomo Ono who did the rest by losing his defending shadow and stepping the fullback to run a winding 40 m to score under the posts. Ono took over the kicking reins from Teraoka to convert and leave the Gaijin with the healthiest lead of the match thus far – 38 v 17
Yellowbacks came roaring back with tries in the 22nd, 25th and 29th minutes. The first was a soft try – the result of good recycling and crashing forward and poor defense on the part of the Gaijin. The second was from a break from their own 22 metre area (was it through Tui’s channel?) with the ball being passed out to the wing and No.11, showing too much pace for the cover defenders, racing away to score. The third came when Tui dropped the ball cold and once again the Yellowbacks No.11 showed a clean pair of heels to race 75 metres. The man certainly has express pace. The last was the only one of the three converted but they were back in the game at 38 v 34 down.
The Gaijin had to pick up their game and managed to hold onto the ball long enough to get deep into the Yellowbacks 22. Good pressure led to a Gaijin scrum not far out from the Yellowbacks line. The scrum seemingly collapsed which should have led to a penalty but the ball was spun wide and hooker Hirsohi Fukasawa ended up with the ball (on the wing where all good hookers should be?) and charged over the line and ran around to get a bit closer to the posts. Ono converted and the Gaijin had a bit of breathing space at 45 v 34.
A good tackle led to the next try showing that there is some truth to the old adage that defense is the best form of attack. The Yellowbacks had been slowly but steadily edging forward to the Gaijin 22 metre area but a jolting tackle from Hirotomo Ono dislodged the ball. He quickly gathered it in and raced 80 metres to score under the posts and then converted his own try putting the Gaijin further ahead 52 v 34.
The final try came in the 38th minute of the half from a good rolling maul. Replacement No.8 Mosese ‘Moji’ Rarasea broke off and took the hit of two defenders and managed to pop the ball to ever-present halfback David McElhinney who dived over. Ono converted to make the final score 59 v 34
It wasn’t a pretty win to the Gaijin, as they made far too many mistakes, but they now have two wins from two in their 2019 Tokyo Cup Campaign. Some fitness work in the heat would help nicely but there is no time for that as the third round is next weekend.
For the Gaijin the Most Valuable Player was Hitomo Ono. He helped put the game out of reach with his twinkle toes (the man can turn on a dime) and express pace. The man is all class and seems to have so much time and does it all in a calm, relaxed manner. He scored 18 points in the game with two tries and a perfect 4 from 4 from the kicking tee. Others to impress were Captain Louie Hamilton who put in a strong shift in the first half. David McElhinney was all over the place in attack and cover defense and rewarded with three tries.
The pick of the forwards was Vice-captain Tom McCullough who seemed to be doing double the work of his fellow forwards. Tomohiro Setoguchi also showed some deft touches with the ball – something you more likely expect from a back than a forward. He also turned on the power with a memorable run bumping off 5 or 6 tacklers in a 30 metre effort, which eventually led to the last try
SCORE: TGRFC 59 (David McElhinney 3, Hiroshi Fukasawa 2, Hirotomo Ono 2, Masato Fujita 1, Taishiro Murase 1, D. Teraoka 3/5, H. Ono 4/4 conversions) Yellowbacks 34 (6 tries, 2/6 conversions)
MVP: Hirotomo Ono