Dateline: 26th February 2012
The Tokyo Gaijin RFC's winning streak of 11 games came to a thudding halt against the Kichioiji Wild Turkeys when they went down 29 v 24 in a rather poor performance out at Akigase Koen. After a day of rain the field was quite muddy and riddled with puddles which made for a very messy game. In what was largely an experimental side, the Gaijin backline seemed all at sea at times and struggled to contain the Wild Turkeys standoff who marshalled his backline very well and kicked to great effect.
The Tokyo Gaijin players knew that the Kichioji Wild Turkeys (KWT) would be a tough opponent despite the Turkeys finishing at the bottom of the Shuto League last season. Their previous match aginst the KWT had been the toughest one of the league as the Gaijin went through the Autumn season undefeated.
The Gaijin began the game with two new recruits in No.8 Daisuke Hiramatsu and Fullback Takeshi Kawai, and had Sean Hannon playing lock in only his second game of rugby after having a run on the wing in his first. In fact, Hannon's efforts in the game were one of the few bright lights for the Gaijin as he made numerous charges into the fray and broke the first tackle every single time.
The Kichioji Wild Turkeys had their first points within 5 minutes after a string of three penalties got them close to the Gaijin try line. After some concerted rucking their halfback broke through a yawning gap and scored next to the posts. The conversion attempt was charged down by Daniel Worden to leave them with an early 5 v 0 lead.
The Gaijin kickoff from David Middleditch didn't go the required 10 metres but the Turkeys played the ball and knocked it on giving the Gaijin a let off from their fundamental mistake. The Gaijin soon got into the Turkey's 22 metre area for the first time after a judicious angled kick across field from Hitoshi Chihara. The Gaijin then received two penalties in a row for ruck infringements and were bashing their way at the Turkey's tryline. Over-zealousness worked against the Gaijin when they lost the ball a metre out from their opposition's tryline.
The Turkey's were soon back on the defensive though and after a nice run from Takeshi Kawai, Paulo de Berriozabal was quick to support his tackled team-mate and picked up the ball from the back of the ruck and went down the blindside, beating two tacklers on his way to the tryline. Toshi Miyano failed with the conversion leaving the scores all tied up at 5 v 5.
The Wild Turkeys pulled away again soon after following a good run from their right winger which forced a line-out about 10 metres from the Gaijin line. The Turkeys mauled strongly from the line-out and forced their way over the tryline. It was unconverted. Score 10 v 5 to the Turkeys.
They should have scored again soon after when their standoff chipped cleverly to their flying winger but he knocked the ball on with no-one in front of him. Shinichiro Nakayama eventually got the Gaijin out of trouble with a valuable steal close to his own line. David Middleditch then kicked ahead and won the race for the ball and toed it further ahead. The opposition fullback then managed to get to the ball first and cleared it into touch from his own tryline. The Gaijin then spent a few minutes crashing into the defense inside the Turkey's 22 metre area but David Middleditch then undid all his good work with an intercept pass. The Turkeys raced 60 metres upfield and by all rights, should have scored again, but a strong chase from Sean Hannon forced the winger to cough up a pass from the player who had made the break.
The Wild Turkeys made amends a little later when a booming kick from their standoff was taken by their centre who crashed over the tryline despite the attentions of Yoshihiro Sato and Yamagen. The successful conversion put the Turkeys up 17 v 5 and the result stayed this way until halftime.
At halftime, team captain Alistair Nimmo, who was sitting this one out, gave the Tokyo Gaijin boys a thorough dressing down. It was obvious that the Gaijin had to try to take the Wild Turkey's standoff out of the game as his booming kicks were causing the Gaijin all sorts of problems. They also needed to man up better in defense in the backline and communicate better as the Turkeys were constantly overlapping them out wide. The early loss of Takeshi Kawai to a rib injury was unfortunate for the Gaijin as he was one of the few backs that was causing the Wild Turkeys problems.
The second half didn't start too brightly when David Chan missed a tackle on his oppposite centre, who raced away to score next to the posts. The successful conversion had the Wild Turkeys out to a handy 24 v 5 lead.
Nik Pavesic, who had added starch to the Gaijin forward pack when he came on at halftime, helped get the Gaijin their first points of the second half. He took a quick tap and ran at the back-peddling defense, broke through a few tackles, drew the last defender and then passed to the supporting Daniel Worden on his outside. Worden raced down the sideline and over the tryline and managed to circle around under the posts. Yamagen converted to put the Gaijin back in the game at 24 v 12.
The Gaijin camped in the Turkeys half for a 5 minute spell and were rewarded when David Chan crashed through a few tackles in a solid charge at the line. Yamagen converted and the Gaijin brought themselves within a try of the lead at 24 v 19.
From the kickoff, Natsu Kunitomo surprised everyone including himself when he was momentarily free. But a lack of support and no Gaijin players at the back of the ruck saw a Turkey's forward steal the unguarded ball. They failed to take advantage of their gain though through a loose pass. David Middleditch spotted the opportunity and toed through the ball. He won the race to the bouncing ball and managed to dribble it soccer style. He went unrewarded though as he was held back 5 metres out by an opposition player despite not actually having the ball in his hands. Shinichiro Nakayama played the support role well though when he dived on the loose ball as it crossed the line saving the referee from penalising the player that had held Middleditch back unfairly. As the referee warned the culprit, Yamagen failed with the wide-ish conversion to tie the scores up again at 24 v 24.
The KWT were not there to play for a draw though and after a big booming bomb from their standoff caused confusion in the TGRFC backs, they managed to come away with the ball and score. The conversion was unsuccessful and left them in front 29 v 24 with 5 minutes to play.
The TGRFC knew it was now or never and worked their way upfield with some of their best rucking and mauling of the game. Those on the sideline could sense a try coming. Alas, Apisai Bati blew what looked like a a certain try, when he was ruled to be guilty of getting back to his feet after a tackle instead of releasing the ball. Perhaps it was white line fever from Bati but the lack of patience was to prove to be an expensive mistake. The Gaijin kept pounding away inside the opposition's half and a quick tap from Shinichiro Nakayama from a ruck infringement by the KWT should have seen them go close for that last nail in the coffin but Bati knocked on the pass to earn the ire of his team mates in what ultimately proved to be the last chance to steal victory at the death.
The final score of 29 v 24 was a fair result. The KWT seemed to want the win more and simply played smarter. Their standoff kicked with aplomb and his booming punts and bombs troubled the Gaijin backline. He also fed his outside men well and his cut-out passes often created overlaps for his wingers. It must also be noted that the KWT bombed three tries which may have made the score line look even worse for the Gaijin.
The Gaijin would have to feel disappointed with the way they played. At times they were a rudderless rabble. The backline defense was poor and while the forwards would have narrowly outpointed their opposition they were guilty of being slow to the ruck at times. Standoff David Middleditch had an unhappy day with 3 kickoffs not going the required 10 metres and a few loose passes. The centre pairing of David Chan and Phillip Ferreira looked lost at times and will need a lot more time together to work on their partnership.
Aside from the work of newcomer, Sean Hannon, the standout for Man of the Match was Toshi Miyano who looked composed at halfback despite usually playing at standoff. He fed his forwards well and kept his cool when others around him were losing the plot. Apisai Bati and Yamagen were given the unwanted Goat of the Game award; Bati for those two brain explosions near the end of the game and Yamagen for a poor decision in the first half. He had failed to communicate with his winger after the KWT standoff put through one of his booming kicks and made a mess of the bouncing ball and found that the KWT winger was bearing down on him. Instead of diviing on the loose ball he kicked it back over his own try line from about 10 metres inside the field of play. Luckily for him the ball narrowly beat the KWT winger over the dead ball line. It was an embarrasing moment for Yamagen and not something that someone of his experience would like to repeat.
While the game was just a 'friendly' organized to give newer players more game time and try new combinations, some of the Gaijin players should feel a bit disappointed with their individual efforts as they played poor rugby at times. Some of the new combinations tried need a lot more time and work. The management did learn that Sean Hannon is more suited to the forwards than the backs as he went close to Man of the Match with his solid performance in the second row. As Nik Pavesic said after the game, perhaps it was a good game to lose as it might make the players wake up and asssess their performances in the leadup to the upcoming big game against Supermen in the Champions League.
SCORE: Kichioji Wild Turkeys 29 (5 tries, 2/5 conversions) TGRFC 24 (Paulo de Berriozabal 1, Dan Worden 1, David Chan 1, Shinichiro Nakayama 1 tries, T. Miyano 0/1, Yamagen 2/3 conversions)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Toshi Miyano
Goat(s) of the Match: Yamagen, Apisai Bati
1. Takeshi Koba (Japan)
2. Shinichiro Nakayama (c) (Japan)
3. Natsu Kunitomo (Japan)
4. Richard O'Shea (Wales)
5. Sean Hannon (USA)
6. Paulo de Berriozabal (Basque)
7. Daniel Bowden (NZ)
8. Daisuke Hiramatsu (Japan)
9. Toshi Miyano (Japan)
10. David Middleditch (England)
11. Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)
12. David Chan (Australia)
13. Phillip Ferreira (South Africa)
14. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
15. Takeshi Kawai (Japan)
Reserves: Nik Pavesic (Croatia), Apisai Bati (Fiji), Mosese Rarasea (Fiji), Jo Iwasaki (Japan), Bryan O'Brien (USA), Yamagen (Japan)