November 18, 2008

Tokyo Gaijin Vs. Gentle Giants

Maul Tokyo Gaijin vs Gentle GiantsSmall leagues of highly competitive teams are often decided when the best two meet. The Gentle Giants RFC prepared well for the '08 Shuto League competition. We observed them attracting large squads to training and playing their previous encounters with discipline and determination. But...On Sunday the 8th of November, the Gentle Giants RFC faced a full and fearsome Tokyo Gaijin regiment.

As if an almost full complement of troops was not enough, talented new faces also bolstered the lines, with Hiroyuki Ikeuchi and Amir Yassari making debuts (well done Amir for making it to the correct ground this time...). Occasional visitor Alexis Ottenwaelter was also in attendance, fortunately once again in Tokyo on business. Making a first outing since Sugadaira was Alastair 'face first' Nimmo, whose cheek, fractured on tour, was judged adequately repaired from reconstructive surgery.The battlefield was the premium Inagi stadium, best ground on the Shuto circuit and the pitch on which the representative 'New Zealand Ambassador's Cup' match is played in mid December. The ground was wide, flat, hard, and well protected from the wind. Expectations were for an exciting and watchable encounter. The men who made it happen for us were Jesse Cutler at the organisational end and Blake Walker as linesman.


November 18, 2008

Tokyo Gaijin Vs. Blue Lions

Tokyo Gaijin Rugby Football Club On November 2nd the Tokyo Gaijin RFC had a ‘Friendly’ game against the Hitostsubashi Blue Lions (an Old Boy’s team from the local university). As they are not in the Shuto League and the TGRFC had never played them before the team didn’t know what to expect. All we knew is that they had won the Shuto League 10`s Tournament a few months earlier, so we expected fit and fast players. It was also another chance for the ‘Gaijin’ to experiment with some positional changes and get some players on who hadn’t had much game time recently. Kevin Rebay and Joe Nawaqavanua were slated to switch positions with Kevin playing outside center and Joe moving into No.8. Yoshihiro Sato, who hadn’t started for some time, was given a starting berth on the right wing and Gaz Dalrmple and Erin Hughes were given the task of stiffening up the forward pack from the get go.

The start to the game was far from ideal. As the author of this article, I must admit I was one of the several players who turned up late to the Hitotsubashi University ground (somewhere in Kunitachi, which I mistakenly assumed was somewhere near the Kunitachi motorway junction, and proceeded to get horribly lost). What a nightmare start! As I arrived (15 minutes before kickoff), most of the forward pack was still trying to pull out their metal studs and replace them with plastic ones to satisfy the local officials and ground staff of the artificial grass field. Obviously some guys rarely change their studs as some had stripped the screw-in part and some guys had completely snapped off the stud (due to rust?). Why didn’t they do it the day before? Good question? Apparently quite a few were relying on Gaz Dalrymple to bring a bunch of studs from the sport shop near his house. It was all a bit of a panic but we were told that they were very strict about this. (Editors note: As it turned out, the referee never checked the studs and a few of the opposition players had metal studs – it seemed to be a complete waste of time!). While this was going on, the backs were out playing touch footy and no one was even close to being switched on for a game of rugby.
November 15, 2008

Undefeated Shuto League Champions

      The Tokyo Gaijin RFC (TGRFC) turned up at Akigase Koen in Omiya knowing that victory would ensure that they had won the Shuto League competition for the 2nd year running. A loss would mean that the Gentle Giants, who the Gaijin had beaten the 24 v 7 the week before, would win the competition on points for and against. Despite winning the Shuto League last year the Gaijin had lost the last game, which didn’t bring the desired closure to the season. So there was a lot to play for. Their opposition, Baku & Clover (B&C), had beaten a couple of ‘tough’ teams and were out to rain on their parade. 

Both sides showed that they meant business in the early exchanges with good tackling and excellent rucking forcing some early turnovers. After the early ‘sorting each other out’ period it was the Gaijin who were first to post some points on the scoreboard. They were awarded a penalty just inside the B&C 22 metre line. In a piece of quick thinking, Apisai Bati quickly tapped the ball and went down the blind. This obviously surprised B&C as Bati did a quick ‘in and out’ step and bounced off a few feeble tackles to dot the ball down right next to the corner flag to give the Gaijin a promising start. Matt Downer missed the conversion from out wide to leave the score at 5 v 0. 

Soon after, from a penalty for offside, Matt Downer posted a penalty goal to enhance the margin to 8 v 0 in favour of the Gaijin. His booming kicks in general play were also relieving the Gaijin from some sustained pressure by the B&C club. Soon after Downer was again in the thick of the action as he cut through the B&C back line on the edge of the ruck and raced up field. As he came to the cover defense he passed to Joffa Harris who was backing up on the inside. Harris beat the fullback but soon realized that he didn’t have the pace to get away from him or the covering winger. His left-side winger was nowhere to be seen so Harris turned the ball back inside to the flying Yoichi Ohira. Unfortunately a B&C cover defender got his hand in the road to knock the ball on. The referee didn’t see it that way and awarded a scrum to B&C for a Gaijin knock on. Another chance gone begging!
November 3, 2008


CoinOn October 26th the Tokyo Gaijin RFC (TGRFC) had a date with the Microsoft Sharks. A non-Shuto League match played under Shuto League rules allowed the club to get non-regular members more field time. With regular captain Murray Clarke resting a broken nose and Will Thompson also out, this allowed Takeshi Ochiai and Erin Hughes to get maximum time in the second row. Former hooker Mike Tokue, making a comeback (at prop) to rugby after 10 years out of the game, was starting at loose-head and Sou Nagashima got a rare run on the blind-side flank, his favorite position (he’s a bit of a handyman and plays wing and hooker with equal aplomb). The Microsoft Sharks dressed nicely and looked the part. Apparently they used to be a company team and were on trial by the Shuto League as possible new entrants to the league next year, and they were also trialing to see if the standard of the league suited them. I think the TGRFC were the Guinea pigs! Maybe they want Mr. Gates or someone to give them money for playing. That would be nice but they have a fair way to go before that happens and first up was the Tokyo Gaijin.

The Gaijin were led by long-serving dynamo Apisai Bati and ever-steady Yoichi Ohira at first-five, while the regular skipper and VC watched from the sidelines. Microsoft kicked off into the waiting arms of Kevin Rebay who smashed it up along the right wing and formed a ruck. Quick ball saw Apisai Bati make a nice 40 metre break with direct running but the last pass to his supports on the inside was almost intercepted but luckily for the Gaijin it was knocked on. From the following scrum big Fijian Joe Nawaqavanua, at outside centre, smashed through several tacklers to make another 30 metres. The ball was recycled quickly to Adam Shockley, who chipped ahead, but the ball ended up going too deep and out of play over the dead ball line before any of the chasers could retrieve it. It was a very strong start from the Gaijin with Yoichi Ohira, rarely spotted at standoff for the TGRFC, dishing out great ball for his outside backs and both Fijian centres making easy yards out wide.