It was a November afternoon one often dreams of – blue skies with bright sunshine, crisp air but still warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt, and a full days rugby played on green grass, surrounded by trees and a small grandstand. The TGRFC had already won the Shuto League as they strolled onto the field to face Tentomushi... the last game of the league campaign.
However with Joffa on the sidelines, no game is won until the final whistle is blown. Club captain Alaister Nimmo was nursing a leg injury form the week before, and Blake Walker was keeping the team honest as the tough judge official. Rich O’Shea took to the bulls by the horns on the day and lead the squad as captain.
And it was a classic TGRFC start. Receiving the kick-off, one could not be sure whether 8 eager forwards were all screaming to catch the ball, or whether all 8 forwards were politely leaving the ball for their comrade in arms to shine. The bobbing ball was eventually gathered and the TGRFC started to make their mark on the game. The forwards picked up their game as a few rucks settled nerves, and a line-out was awarded in the opposition 22. A solid line-out saw a few rucks in quick succession with a pick-and-drive strategy paying dividends. It was not long before captain O’Shea was seen throwing all 2 metres of his body over the line for a try. Fly-half Toshi converted and it was 7 - 0.
The restart saw the forwards make amends as second-row Nick Pavesic gathered the ball convincingly. Hooker Liam Ramshaw took the ball up from a pop pass and solid hands saw the ball work its way through the backs. Winger Ikuo Fukuda sadly ran out of room but it was clear the TGRFC were looking to run the ball whenever possible. Intense pressure meant that Tentomushi were given a very tight leash as they struggled to clear the ball. With good rucking in the opposition half, it was not long before the referee awarded a penalty in favour of the TGRFC, and although a set-piece move had clearly been set up, scrum-half Hitoshi popped the ball to number 8 Hiroyuki Ikeuchi and he ran through two tackles to score under the posts. Another conversion and it was 14 – 0.
The scrum had been the TGRFC’s strongest assets in the game thus far, supported by a front row of Tsukasa Takasugi, Liam and Mojee Rarasea. They were called up after a poor spell by the TGRFC conceding a few penalties on the trot. 10 metres from their own try line with a scrum against the head, the forward pack pushed over the Tentomushi with ease as the opposition scrum-half was left to clean up a mess. Scrum-half Hitoshi Chihara pounced on his opposition number and a turnover ball found its way to the backs. Canadian centre Rod McDonald broke the line and broke through the Tentomushi full-back to score under the posts – again the conversion was over... 21 - 0.
After half time, scrum-half Hitoshi got himself on the score-board with an opportune try from a quick tap-and-go from a penalty. With a successful conversion, TGRFC were 28 points in the lead. It was at this point that Tentomushi struck back. A lapse in concentration in defence led to an overlap, and although there were some loose hands among the Tentomushi backs, they went over in the corner and executed a tough conversion... 28 – 7.
TGRFC needed to ensure that a second half collapse was no option. Second row Nic Pavesic has been a key player since his arrival at the end of the summer, and he also got on the scorecard after some excellent forward play and consistent rucking which bore through the heart of the Tentomushi defence. 35 – 7 after a successful conversion.
But try of the match, and indeed the season thus far should go to Canadian Stu McDonald (brother of Rod) who scored a beautifully worked forward and backs try. Three rucks in quick succession in the TGRFC half saw the ball with fly-half Toshi Miyano who broke the Tentomushi defensive line. He ran past 3 players, whereupon he passed. However the ball was slapped down by the opposition player, and just as it was about to land, quick as a flanker, Shinichiro Nakayama caught the ball before contact with the ground. He took it on a few metres before passing it to the new winger Ken Goto. He strode forward and ran past another player, but then full-back Stu came around on the outside to run it into the corner. The conversion was missed, but the TGRFC sideline was in far too much of a joyous mood to worry about 2 points. 40 - 7
The TGRFC are Grand Slam champions in the Shuto League 2011 and have gone through the League undefeated for the first time.
Score: TGRFC 40 (Richard O'Shea 1, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi 1, Rod McDonald 1, Hitoshi Chihara 1, Nik Pavesic 1, Stu McDonald 1 tries. Toshi Miyano 5/6 conversions) Tentoumushi 7 (1 try/1 conversion).
Man of the Match: Toshi Miyano
1. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. Tsukasa Takasugi (Japan)
4. Rich O'Shea (c) (Wales)
5. Nick Pavesic (Croatia)
6. Daniel Worden (New Zealand)
7. Shinichiro Nakayama (Japan)
8. Hiroyuki Ikeuchi (Japan)
9. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
10. Toshi Miyano (Japan)
11. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
12. David Chan (Australia)
13. Rod McDonald (Canada)
14. Bryan O’Brien (USA)
15. Stu McDonald (Canada)
16. Takeshi Koba (Japan) 17.Gaz Dalrymple (SCO) 18.Natsuhiko Kunitomo (Japan) 19.Andy Ballard (Eng)
20. Shaunne Hughes(AUS) 21.Dave Kelver (USA) 22.Joffa Harris (AUS) 23. Paulo Berriozabal (BASQUE)
24.Yoz Togo (Japan) 25.Toru Kanamori (Japan) 26.Yamagen (Japan) 27. Dave Middleditch (ENG)