Due to there being no ‘Official’ Competition over February and March theTokyo Gaijin usually use this period to play ‘Friendly’ Games when not training, with two aims in mind - to give new players more game time and to ready themselves for the Tokyo Cup beginning in mid April.
The first friendly for the season (Feb 18th) was against Komaba WMM. Komaba are a class team who went through the Tokyo Cup 2nd Division last year undefeated and have their sights set on doing the same in the 1st Division.
The day turned out to be a wet and miserable day. Most players, used to games being called off with just a smell of rain, were surprised to hear that the game was still on. This was mainly due to the fact that the Komaba contact did not answer any calls so Gaijin Team Management made their own decision. ‘It`s just bloody water!’ I guess making a decision, which could be unpopular, is difficult to do in Japan. It goes against ‘Group Dynamics’. Better to lie in bed and let others make the decision. Thankfully, the Komaba players arrived in dribs and drabs and they managed to get a team together.
After a less than average Shuto League Campaign in the Autumn the Tokyo Gaijin RFC were slated to play Urayasu Beers Rugby Club, who were runners up in the Second Division to decide if they stay in the First Division in the next campaign. All games had been close affairs and in fact the Gaijin had the closest losing margin against eventual undefeated League winners, the Tentou Mushi Club, but ‘close losses’ are not good enough and today`s match was the punishment. Having whipped all comers in the 2nd Division the previous year, the January 28th match was to decide if the Gaijin were to stay in a competitive league or drop to a less challenging one. Always up for a challenge, they were out to keep things as they were.
Joe Fisher was back in the Club colours for the first time in a few years after spending some time in his native New Zealand and moonlighting for the YCAC. Apisai Bati was also back to strengthen the centers after spending three years with the Blue Socks Club in the Saitama League.
The game didn`t start too well with Paulo de Berriozabal dropping the kickoff. This seemed to lift the Urayasu Beers and the Gaijin seemed to drop their guard and were instantly in trouble. Everyone in attendance soon realized that Beers were going to be no pushover as they started charging into mauls and rucks with a keen desire to leave the 2nd Division behind. The Gaijin continued with a plethora of errors from pushed passes and poor tackling. It was certainly not the start that Captain Alistair Nimmo had talked of before the game.