13 Oct – YCAC vs Taisei

YCAC 40 Taisei 35 (HT: 26 – 14)
Tries:
Will Whetstone (3), Ben Duncan, Sias Potgieter, Barry Clark
Conversions: Ben Duncan (4), Dean Stallard (1)

In addition to allowing an official YCAC team to enter the 3rd Division of the Kanagawa League, the tournament organizers also arranged some $B!F(Bfriendly$B!G(B matches for YCAC against teams from the 1st and 2nd divisions. Our first opponent for these $B!F(Bfriendly$B!G(B games (inverted commas used because such fixtures are inevitably anything but) was Taisei, one of Japan$B!G(Bs biggest construction companies.

As with our match against NI Fijis the previous day, the long weekend meant that it had been difficult to get a team together. However, we did manage to get 16 players to the Akibadai Athletic Stadium in time for the match. Actually, for a while it looked like we were going to have to go ahead with the bare minimum of 15 as Tony $B!F(BBig Daddy$B!G(B Baildon seemed to have gone missing in action somewhere between his house and the stadium. This was especially surprising given that he wasn$B!G(Bt even relying on the vagaries of public transport, but was instead driving to the ground in his brand new black Ferrari. Obviously Big Daddy hasn$B!G(Bt yet learnt to get quite as much out of his machine as Kimi or Felipe! ! Luckily, Tony$B!G(Bs ride had just enough grunt to get him to the ground a few minutes before kick-off. However, as we were about to find out, this actually put him way ahead of most of the Taisei team …

Only 10 of the opposition showed up for the match. How ironic that on a public holiday dedicated to sport so few of the Taisei team could be bothered to actually play them damn thing! I was disappointed and slightly embarrassed at this, I had brought my guys a long way out of Tokyo (Akibadai is 30 minutes past Yokohama) on a public holiday on the promise of a 15$B!G(Bs match against a strong opponent. To have to tell the team at kick-off that we were changing to a 10$B!G(Bs match with 15 minute halves was not pleasant. There is no doubt that Taisei do not usually have a problem with numbers – they are the reigning Kanagawa! League 1st Division champions and currently working their way through the national amateur competition. I suppose it is possible that the long weekend may have caused them problems finding numbers (as it did us). However, it seems more likely that with their national hopes still alive they decided to give this game a very low priority. It was interesting to note though how the Kanagawa League officials accepted all of this with such good humor (including Taisei$B!G(Bs request for uncontested scrums). Given that I had been warned repeatedly of the problems which would arise if YCAC couldn$B!G(Bt field a team for any of our matches I was left wondering if everything would have played out so smoothly if the boot had been on the other foot $B!D(B

So, after an hour warming up for a 15$B!G(Bs match, we started our 10$B!G(Bs game. Funnily enough, we had the opposite problem from the previous day with only 4 players out of 16 being $B!F(Bout and out$B!G(B backs – not exactly ideal for a 10$B!G(Bs match with uncontested scrums! However, I did find that it was easier to convince forwards to play in the backs than it was the other way around the day before and Steve $B!F(BBig Cuzzy Bro$B!G(B Gray and Will $B!F(BThe Choir Boy$B!G(B Whetstone quickly changed from our loose forward pairing to our center pairing. This positional switch was a success with Will playing a great match and scoring a hat-trick of tries and Steve doing a lot of excellent s! et up work to help Will (and others) get over the line.

Several Taisei players showed their speed right from the kick-off and the opening try of the match was scored through the pace of the Taisei fly-half. This prompted one of our team to offer the referee the wry observation that $B!H(BSo they$B!G(Bre allowed to run, but we$B!G(Bre not allowed to push?$B!I(B Luckily, I think this comment was lost in translation and the ref went on to have a very good game. We also managed to pull ourselves together and score four quick tries to go into the half-time break with a healthy 26 – 14 lead.

In the second half we made a number of substitutions to try and give everybody a run. A number of the guys who came on showed some good individual touches – Silas $B!F(BIn the Navy$B!G(B Riley had several good runs even though it was the first time he had played in the backs and debutant Barry $B!F(BJonah$B!G(B Clark scored an excellent winger$B!G(Bs try. Unfortunately, as often happens with a rush of substitutions, the net effect was actually a breakdown of the team$B!G(Bs rhythm. Taisei took full advantage and scored three quick tries which meant that with three minutes to go we were actually trailing 35 – 33. Luckily, a restoration of the starting line-up and a! lift in concentration allowed us to put Will away for the winning try a minute from time through some good hands in the backline (started by Ben $B!F(BSilver Fox$B!G(B Duncan).

After a brief after-match function it was time to head back to Tokyo. It is here that the disparity between the team $B!F(Bhaves$B!G(B and $B!F(Bhave-nots$B!G(B really became apparent. While Tony was comfortably winging his way back to the big smoke in that new Ferrari the rest of us were piled into the YCAC van that $B!F(BCaviar$B!G(B Ken Noguchi had been able to rent through points accumulated by drinking beer in the Members Bar. (What other club would offer keys to a motor vehicle as a reward for consumption of alcohol?) For a van that is meant to seat nine people, we thought we did quite well to get thirteen bodies in there!

Joe Fisher

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