6th of November, 2011.
In what was the earliest start of the Shuto League campaign so far, the Gaijin had more than a battle on their hands with the lethargic way that they warmed up and ran through drills before the game started. Also the ritual of the rugby laws education before the game, which was quite ironic given the referee's lack of respect for the most basic rules of rugby, all pointed to the game being one of those poor performances that the Gaijin manage to pull out of the bag in every Shuto campaign to cut down any momentum and put the Championship in doubt.
Although the eventual victory ran out to a 34 - 7 scoreline in favour of the Tokyo Gaijin, the Kichijoji Wild Turkeys (KWT) who are supposedly the 'weakest' team in the competition had the Gaijin on the rack for long spells in the game. It was a small victory for rugby that the Gaijin did win, as the bomb option employed by the Turkeys was a little boring, however quite effective. The stand-off who received the man of the match award from the Gaijin dictated the opposition's game plan from the outset with a booming and tactically pin-point perfect kicking game.
Kickoff bought the expected fizzle that some senior members of the team had seen coming from a mile away. Perhaps it was a good thing that the ball was dropped so early, as it made the lads focus on their tasks a little earlier, rather than plying their trade poorly for the first 20 minutes.
The big man Joe Nawaqavanua was left a little dazed early after he took a nasty cut on the right eye, that would definitely require stitching. The bat signal must have gone out earlier than the injury as someone acquainted with the team with certain surgery skills managed to make a surprise appearance. Alas, it was her rostered day off so no help of any significance could be offered to Joe. Instead it was Yusuke the team doctor who patched him up and had him back on the field in no time. It was good to have him on as he was his normal rampaging best.
Dave Middleditch put points on the board for the Gaijin early with a penalty from just to the left of the posts to put the Gaijin 3 - 0 up. He was unlucky to not have his second on the board when he went for an uncharacteristic shot from 40 out. He stuck it low and hard and it just drifted under the posts.
To follow up the penalty, the Gaijin also scored a try with Ikuo Fukuda sliding into a very short in-goal for a 5 pointer. Toshi Miyano had done good work to start it, making a very good covering tackle then standing up and pilferingthe ball. The ball was swung wide after a few phases and Mojee Rarasea, Nik Pavesic, Alaister Nimmo and Liam Bradshaw and finally Ikuo combined for what was a well worked try. Gaijin 8-0.
Although the game plan for the Turkeys was kick and chase, the Gaijin chose to use this tactic on a few occasions as well. Miyano was getting good height on his Gary Owens and a good chasing game was supporting this. Stronger though was his choice of when to run and pass, and this was helping to make inroads into the KWT half on a good platform provided by the Gaijin.
The team that would score next was the KWT when a, you guessed it.... Bomb, worked out well and the re-gather and ruck saw the Turkeys crash over and covert to close the gap to just 1 point. 8-7.
Goat of the Day was locked down for Mojee when he made a great run to the line after he combined with replacement loose forward Joffa Harris. The final motion of putting the ball down was beyond Mojee and he decided to throw up a hail mary to no-one instead of letting gravity do its work. On ya Mojee.
Not all was lost late in the half though with the Gaijin extending the lead to 15 - 8, courtesy of a classic Nik Pavesic try. He cut back from a tap penalty close to the posts and with his large frame broke the would be clutches of the defenders who feigned an interest in trying to tackle him.
Tokyo Gaijin were unlucky not to go up by more with Rod McDonald making a good run from the re-start and making some big yards before feeding off to Dave Middleditch for a booming kick upfield. There was a foot race to get to the ball and it was won by the Turkey defender who kicked it dead. It could have been an extrememly stupid option to kick the ball dead, but with the half time whistle blown it was the right thing to do.
The decision to keep the ball in hand in the second half was a plan that everybody seemed eager for. It would surely be the foil to stop the 10 man game that KWT was playing quite well.
The Gaijin started the second half well, with the huge presence of the Gaijin scrum blowing the KWT out of the water. the Gaijin scrum pushed the KWT pack off its own ball and Joffa Harris went off the back of the scrum and was inch perfect with his inside ball to Big Joe who surged over for a try. It was well worked and with the score now at 22 - 7 the Gaijin looked like they might run away with it.
A raft of changes saw some reserves get their chance to play. Gaz Dalrymple came on at prop, Andy Ballard on at lock, and Stu McDonald came on at fullback for the injured David Middleditch.
However, it was to be the defence of the Gaijin in the red-zone that was the ultimate heart-breaker for the Wild Turkeys in the second half. Though a good kicking game can get you into a position to score, it does not put points on the board. The opposition rucked and mauled well, with some assistance from the referee and some 80/20% calls (no they werent 50/50 calls, they were just wrong) to stay on attack in the Gaijin 22m for about 15 minutes in the middle of the second half.
As the game petered out towards the most unceremonious of endings, the Gaijin kicked it up a gear again. With not a lot of time left on the clock the Gaijin put two more five pointers on the score board to blow the end result out to a slightly flattering 34 - 7.
The second to last try was a big run away. Some interplay in the backs saw some space out wide and when Big Joe found himself on the end of a pass, he had too much pace even for the pretend tap tackle that was launched at him as he closed in on the line. The conversion was successful and the score was 29 - 7.
The last try was scored on the wing and out too wide to be converted. But it was great that Stuart McDonald on the wing managed to dot down before he was taken out in the corner.
Though the final score of 34 v 7 was an appropriate scoreline, the Gaijin felt that the Kickioji Wild Turkeys had been a stern test and provided more of a challenge than some of the more fancied sides that they had come up against in the Shuto League. They tackled low and well, and outpointed the Gaijin at ruck time. In the second half they also held a territorial advantage helped by some rather mystifying refereeing decisions. The Gaijin scrum was far superior though with big prop Shinobu Totsuka and Takeshi Koba providing a strong base that forced the KWT scrum back on quite a few occassions and forced a few turnovers. The KWT pack adapted though and managed to stem the bleeding with quick ball to the back and their No.8 or halfback managing to pick up the ball before their scrum came back on them.
The KWT gave their Man of the Match award to Mosese Rarasea but the Gaijin Management group didn't see it that way and instead gave Rarasea the Goat of the Game award for that bombed try in the first half. Toshi Miyano was given the man of the Match Award for excellent control of his forwards and backline and some very clever sniping runs to keep the quickly onrushing defense in two minds.
It was a good day out for all, thanks as always to the supporters, family members, reserves and Physio that came along and to any other surprise appearances that made their way to the beautiful Musashino City Stadium for the match.
Final Score: Tokyo Gaijin 34 (Joe Nawaqavanua 2, Ikuo Fukuda 1, Nik Pavesic 1, Stu McDonald 1 tries, Dave Middleditch 1/2 penalties, 2/3 conversions, Yamagen 1/2 conversions) Kichijoji Wild Turkeys 7 (1 try, 1/1 conv.)
Man of the Match: Toshi Miyano
Goat of the Match: Mosese Rarasea
1. Takeshi Koba (Japan)
2. Liam Ramshaw (Eng)
3. Shinobu Totsuka (Japan)
4. Richard O'Shea (vc) (Wales)
5. Niｋ Pavesic (Croatia)
6. Joe Nawaqavanua (Fiji)
7. Dave Kelver (USA)
8. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
9. Al Nimmo (c) (Eng)
10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)
11. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
12. Mosese 'Mojee' Rarasea (Fiji)
13. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
14. Wataru Satou (Japan)
15. Dave Middleditch (Eng)
Gaz Dalrymple (Sco), Natsuhiko Kunitomo (Japan), Koji Nishihara (Japan), Sir Andrew Cornelius Ballard (18th Earl of Sugamo), Joffa Harris (Aus), Rod McDonald (Canada), Stu McDonald (Canada), Yoshihiro Satou (Japan), Yamagen (Japan), *T. Stalker (Japan).