SEA Rugby Odyssey 23/24 Part 2: Tokyo Gaijins’ Invade Bangkok
March 25, 2024
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SEA Rugby Odyssey 23/24 Part 3: Gaijin Galore – A Hanoi Hiccup & Heroes Tale

By: Jack Buckley

One might be forgiven for thinking the Tokyo Gaijin RFC lineup at the Hanoi 10s tournament was that of a veterans’ squad. But on the heels of the successful Bangkok 10s in February, the squad in March was limited to those available and somewhat willing.

Touching down in muggy Hanoi, the air was filled with anticipation. The local club, Hanoi Dragons RFC, was hosting its first-ever 10s tournament and fielded two teams, aiming to impress. Meanwhile, the Gaijin squad, facing similar challenges, showed promising signs despite starting with just five players at the team lodgings at the predetermined arrival time. Eventually, a total of nine players (yes, you read that right, nine players for a 10s tournament) assembled after a night of Vietnamese hospitality at the American Club in Hanoi.

With the helpful local translation and organizational efforts from Tomohiro Setoguchi, the team piled onto the club bus to travel to the Hanoi National Athletics Arena, albeit with heavy heads from the night before. The day ahead would see the Gaijin fight gallantly against much more drilled and equipped teams with squads of up to 25 players. Nevertheless, there were moments of skill and surprise as hard-fought losses came at the hands of the Bangkok Southerners (who would go on to win the tournament), Hanoi Dragons Red, and the Da Nang Guerrillas. Skill came in the form of tour stalwart Nikola Pavesic, who was responsible for several line breaks and fend-offs, getting under the skin of every opponent he encountered. The surprise came in the form of several short kick-offs from another tour veteran, Hitoshi Chihara. Despite practicing kicking into the net as his only form of warming up, Hitoshi somehow managed to turn over every Gaijin kickoff for the weekend.

The last day saw the Gaijin’s team bus arrive at the hotel for a departure at a time that some might consider unreasonable for a first game kickoff time almost three hours in advance. Despite arriving at the ground before even the event organizers, the TGRFC squad was given ample time to prepare for a turnaround in on-field results from the day before. Unfortunately, this was not the case. There were close losses to the Hanoi Dragons Black and the Chiang Mai Cobras. The first of these two matches was notable, as our own Tommy Nasuno managed to score our first try (well, the first one scored not by a fill-in player). The second match was also notable as we played against a team, the Cobras, who had primarily been filling in for us in the preceding four matches. With that being the case, the Gaijin actually pushed them hard to only lose that match by a try, or two.

Despite not making as much of an impact on the field, it is fair to say that Hanoi saw the off-field performance each night of the tournament. With several expeditions to taste the local cuisine on the other side of town, a local Irish pub hosted the Gaijin for the final day of the Six Nations tournament, which was a welcome respite given our weariness after our own matches.

There are two important groups that must be mentioned for their support on this tour. Most importantly was our tour sponsor and resident prop, Lonnie Blankenship. Without the support of him, his business West Club United, and partner SAS3 Trading, we would not have been able to enjoy the tour at such an affordable price. Secondly, is the Chiang Mai Cobras RFC. With multiple players filling in for most of our matches, we were actually able to field an entire team with reserves for all our matches. Our gratitude goes to these people for their tremendous support.

We look forward to returning to Hanoi in future 10s tournaments, and hopefully next time, with a full contingent!

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