15th of April, 2012
The first game of the season for Tokyo Cup 2012 was against a team with a formidable record. They had previously played in higher divisions and won the 1st Division last year. Koryo who is a team made up of a large number of players who had attended the North Korean School here in Tokyo and were renowned for the tough approach to the game and strong team work ethic. From the outset it proved to be a tough battle with not alot in it at the end of the game.
Ideally this article provided the perfect opportunity for a couple of silly puns and some subtle wit in relation to recent events. But it is above the author to fire any rockets in the general direction of another team.
Koryo had the kick off and it was into a stiff breeze that was to have an impact on the game. Things didn't go well from kick-off for the TGRFC and the first ball was dropped by Big Joe. Kick-offs would were not dealt with well by the TGRFC at any stage. The ref quickly showed that he desired to stamp his mark on the game with a quick succession of penalties for both teams. 3 in about 90 seconds had both teams a little unsure of what he was exactly trying to prove.
The first 25 minutes of the game provided both teams with opportunities to stamp their own mark on the game. Koryo had good systems in place and structured most of their work around a strong forward pack. The scrum was solid and they drove well from the lineout.
The TGRFC was pilfering from loose play well and making good ground around the side of the ruck and a couple of phases out. The Gaijin were guilty of making small handling errors that was gifting posession back to Koryo on a number of ocassions.
Both of the teams were making good yards when they could maintain position and Koryo had the majority of the territory even playing into a strong wind.
The first try came against the run of play when from turnover ball it was spun wide and Joe Nawaqavanua put in a chip kick. It was dealt with badly by the wing and fullback and their attempt to collect and clear was fumbled and Joe was able to regather and drive to the line in the right hand corner of the field. The try was unconverted from outwide. 5- 0.
The next major phase of play would be deep in the Gaijin 22m. Hiroyuki Ikeuchi who had some surging runs and was defending strongly was unlucky to receive a yellow card for a high tackle. It was an arguable penalty offence, but the card was certainly a harsh step for what wasnt a dangerous tackle.
Number superiority and consecutive penalties from infringements kept the pressure on the TGRFC. And when Hitoshi Chihara came out of the line quickly from a tap penalty they shuffled and exploited the gap for try under the posts which was converted. Koryo took the lead 5 - 7.
At halftime the call was to control possession, stop silly penalties and control ourselves in order to keep ahold of the game.
The Koryo team used the wind much better than the Gaijin did and made big yards from the kick. Chihara stepping into #10 had struggled to add this to his game in the absence of normal stand-off Miyano.
Surely the most memorable part of the game was the 1st try of the sescond half. Some solid ruck work from the Gaijin put the ball on a platter for the team. Nik Pavesic took the ball on about the Gaijin 45 and working left of the ruck broke the line and continued to drift wide stretching the second line of Koryo defence. With his partner in crime knowing exactly what to do Mojee drifted inside and Nik popped a classy ball round his body and the field was opened up. With only the fullback to beat Mojee drew him in for the tackle and passed of to the supporting Big Joe who scored about 15 metres to the left of the bost. The Gaijin had taken the lead back at 10 - 7.
Mojee had been having a strong game in attack making several scything runs. The backs in general had defended well and Koryo didnt play the game the Gaijin had been expected with a relatively quiet approach to backs play.
In a game that had too and froed about with aggresive play and punctuated by penalties for entering from the side at the breakdown and a Koryo team which had little respect for the offside line, yellow cards never looked like they would be too far away.
When Joe Nawaqavanua hit out with an elbow at a player in the tackle he was given a rest on the bench for 10 minutes. That would be his last play of the game as we could not risk bringing him back on and losing him with a red card.
As is the case with yellow cards the number superiority on the field had an impact. Penalties, tactical use of the wind and controlling position got the Koryo team deep into the Gaijin half where they camped themselves for a long spell. Again it was the runner 1 phase out from the ball and a lapse in defense that let the team in for another try close to the posts which was converted. The Gaijin were 10 - 14 down.
The 2nd most memorable moment of the game was a tackle around the Gaijin 40 m line by Hiroyuki Ikeuchi. He absolutely cut a guy in half with a huge front on hit to the guts and the turnover from the lost ball gave the Gaijin a great midfield position to go either way. Unfortunately nothing came of it.
In the closing spell of the game the Gaijin were throwing everything into it, but it just wasnt to be our day. With the game being a lot close than both teams had expected, Koryo opted to kick for goal from a penalty but missed. Maintaing field position though severla minutes later they took a snap drop-goal and extended their lead to 10 - 17.
This is the way it stayed, and although the Gaijin were relatively satisfied with 1 competition point they were disappointed as there were oppurtunities to win the game.
Thanks as always goes to helpers, supporters and management of the cup for making the day out so enjoyable.
Score: TGRFC 10 (Joe Nawaqavanua 2 tries; Hitoshi Chihara 0/2 conv.) Koryo 17 (2 Tries; 2/2 conv, 1 DG)
Man of the Match: Hiroyuki Ikeuchi; Mojee Rarasea
Goat of the Match: Shinichiro Nakayama
1. Takeshi Koba (Japan)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3. Taka Kitajima (Japan)
4. Richard O'Shea (Wales)
5. Nik Pavesic (Croatia)
6. Joe Nawaqavanua (Fiji)
7. Shinichiro Nakayama (Japan)
8. Hiroyuki Ikeuchi (Japan)
9. Al Nimmo (C/England)
10. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
11. Brian O'Brien (USA)
12. Mosese Rarasea (Fiji)
13. Roy Touch (Australia)
14. David Chan (Australia)
15. Jo Iwasaki (Japan)
16. Chris Lucas (Australia)
17. Natsuhiko Kunitomo (Japan)
18. Takeshi Ochiai (Japan)
19. Takashi Tanikawa (Japan)
20. Ikuo Fukuda (Japan)
21. Yamagen (Japan)
22. Apasai Bati (Fiji)