3 July 2010 – YCAC vs Imperial College London 2nd XV

Match report by Hunter Hemingway and photos by Kyoko Obayashi
Click here to view match photos
YCAC 42, Imperial College London 2nd XV 21 (HT: 14-7)
Tries: Alex Curran, Noah Pflaum, Tristan Fahy, Tim Le Nevez, Kenji Yoshioka (2)
Conversions: Noah Pflaum (6)

YCAC finished their 2010/11 season in style with a very good win over Imperial College London’s 2nd XV on an overcast July day at the campus of Japan’s most prestigious university (Todai).

The result in this match was a pleasant surprise as all the omens before the game were not good:
– We were playing a university team at a university campus in a ‘special’ game. This is usually a sure-fire sign that we are about to get completely stitched-up (e.g. the ‘Keio All-Stars’ debacle in 2008).
– ICL were looking disappointingly young, fit, plentiful (41 players in the touring party) and without hangovers (our hearts dropped when one of them casually said “oh yes, we made sure we got a good sleep last night”).
– We were struggling for numbers. This was not helped by losing our three loosehead props on the day of the match – starter Luke “The Nuke” Raimo and back-up Eps “Little Cuzzy Bro” Tuibenau reinforced the stereotypes regarding the mental capacities of front rowers with one misreading the email and thinking this was a Sunday fixture and the other ending up at the wrong Todai campus while newcomer Michel “Dutch Courage” Malek picked up an injury after too enthusiastically trying to recreate the heroics of his national team in a friendly futsal game during the week. Luckily we were able to go ahead with the match by borrowing pocket battleship Yushi from Todai who scrummed and lifted like a demon all day. The sad thing is that if he came to YCAC he could play 30 games a year and virtually never practise whereas at Todai he will be practicing 6 days a week and you can bet hardly ever playing (they wouldn’t have risked injury by lending him to us if he was a regular starter).
– We were playing in our cursed ‘Canterbury’ alternative jerseys (red and black hoops). The only other time we have played in these jerseys was our shock loss to the Shonan Playboys a couple of months ago. Of course it must have been the jerseys …

In addition to all of this, two of our backline stars (halfback “Wee” Willie Lapthorn and fullback Tristan “Larry” Fahy) were nursing tremendous hangovers although long experience has taught me that this is not actually a negative and many YCAC players seem to play better in this state. So it proved yet again in this instance with both having fine games – Lappers running the ship expertly from the No. 9 jersey and Fahy producing a strong performance from the back. This match also clearly did no harm to the spirits of the two with captain “Slow” Joe Fisher receiving a message from them at 3:30 am the following morning saying they were still out celebrating!

However, despite all of these ill-omens it was YCAC who started the stronger with No. 8 Alex “Timepiece” Curran dotting down for the first try of the match. Over the last few seasons Curran has developed a (well-deserved) reputation for unreliability but no-one has ever questioned his value once you actually get him onto the field and this game was no exception with the big man having a stormer from the back of the scrum despite this being his first match in six months. Fly-half Noah “The Bottomless Fareweller” Pflaum converted in what was to become a familiar sight in this match – all nine tries scored in the game were turned into 7-pointers. Noah was also next to score for YCAC in what will almost certainly be his last game for YCAC before he heads off to Edinborough University this autumn. Noah has been the club’s best player over the last season so he will obviously be a huge loss. However, when one door closes another opens and this game marked the YCAC debut of Noah’s older brother, Nathan “Big shoes to fill” Pflaum, who will be based in Tokyo full time from this autumn. Nathan has actually just graduated from Victoria University of Wellington so, as Freezer (gone but not forgotten) would say, that makes him an ‘aluminium’ of Slow Joe and JD. Cue secret handshakes and arcane rugby songs …

ICL managed one try in the first half so at the half-time break YCAC held a 14-7 lead. Fahy scored first for YCAC in the second half but ICL promptly replied with a try of their own. Next to score for YCAC was Tim “The Toe” Le Nevez, fitting reward for a fine all-round game. However, at 28-14 with 10 minutes to go it was still very much anyone’s game. It was at this point that something truly bizarre happened.

I have played in one or two games when the referee has not been able to complete the match due to injury, usually a pulled hammy or something similar. But this was definitely the first match I have played in where the referee (Steve “The Vicar” Lewis) could not complete the match because he had been knocked out by a member of his own club who is also an employee of his! Picture, dear reader, if you will the following scene: A midfield ruck, halfback Lapthorn sees space behind and launches a thunderous kick at exactly the same time as Vicar moves into a space about three feet ahead of Lapthorn. What ensued was a scene which boxing aficionados will recognize as vaguely familiar to the final act of the famous Ali-Foreman 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ – the strangely satisfying ‘thud’ of solid contact followed by the Vicar (Foreman) staggering for several meters with arms windmilling in an ultimately doomed struggle against gravity before finally giving in to the inevitable and hitting the canvas (artificial grass in this case) like a sack of dropped potatoes. Some time later a still groggy Vicar left the field, replaced by one of the touch judges. Willie has not been sighted at work since.

Strangely enough the Vicar’s unfortunate demise seemed to lift the YCAC team and they promptly closed the match out with two tries to speedy flanker Kenji “Red Gloves Watermelon” Yoshioka. ICL did manage one more try but the final scoreline reflects a fairly comfortable victory for YCAC. However, the game was played in excellent spirit throughout so ICL deserve full credit for that.

After the game the team were hosted at a BBQ at the palatial residence of Bruce “The Godfather” Pflaum and we were able to farewell Conor “Tristan’s Disciple” O’Shea who is heading back to the UK this summer to begin officer training at Sandhurst. We wish Conor all the best and we are confident that some of the disciplines we have drilled into young O’Shea over the last six months (particularly the importance of consuming vessels with one’s left hand) will be of use to him at the Royal Military Academy.

After a train ride back to Shibuya with the Todai Cheerleading Squad a number of the team pushed on to Dubliners in Shibuya where El Presidente was left disappointed (once again) by the hunting abilities of the YCAC younger generation. They just don’t make them like they used to.

So passes another season.

Hunter Hemingway

Team Sheet
1. Yushi from Todai (Japan)
2. Conor “Tristan’s Disciple” O’Shea (Ireland)
3. “Slow” Joe Fisher (New Zealand) (c)
4. Sam “Tall Timber” Stephens (New Zealand)
5. Taichi “Posh Spice Junior” Noda (Japan)
6. Terry “Kojak” Buechner (USA)
7. Kenji “Red Gloves Watermelon” Yoshioka (Japan)
8. Alex “Timepiece” Curran (Australia)
9. “Wee” Willie Lapthorn (New Zealand)
10. Noah “The Bottomless Fareweller” Pflaum (Singapore)
11. Nathan “Big shoes to fill” Pflaum (New Zealand)
12. “Big” Ben Patu (Samoa)
13. Tim “The Toe” Le Nevez (Australia)
14. Charlie “Wendy” Caskey (Canada)
15. Tristan “Larry” Fahy (Ireland) (cv)
16. Patrick “Blarney” Meany (Australia)
17. “Caviar” Ken Noguchi (Japan)

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