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

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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)

20 June 2010 – YCAC vs Taisei

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Match report by Hunter Hemingway and photos by Kyoko Obayashi
Click here to view match photos
YCAC 49, Taisei 19 (HT: 24-14)
Tries: Mike Griffin, Rich Watkins (2), Willie Lapthorn, Sias Potgieter, Rafi Khan, Kats Matsuo, Noah Pflaum
Conversions: Noah Pflaum (3)
Penalty: Noah Pflaum

What is the perfect gift for Father’s Day? A ‘pass’ to play rugby it seems, at least among the YCAC crowd, with no less than thirteen Dads in our squad of twenty two (and that doesn’t even count No. 8 Steve “Big Cuzzy Bro” Gray whose first child is only days away).

And so it was that on a hot and breezy day at Hodogaya (the club’s home away from home) YCAC, temporarily renamed ‘Dad’s Army’, swept away Taisei to claim the Kanagawa League 1st Division title and send out a message that we have no intention to only be making up the numbers in the regional competition we have qualified for this autumn.

Taisei were arguably the favourites for this match, having won the competition in 2008 and 2009 and been in very good form over the last few weeks, and with a strong wind behind them they did take the early lead. However, first half tries to outside centre Mike “Hurricane” Griffin and wingers Rich “Curly” Watkins and “Wee” Willie Lapthorn plus three conversions and a penalty to fullback Noah “The Bottomless Fareweller” Pflaum saw YCAC take a 24-14 lead into the half-time break and with the benefit of a strong tail wind in the second half the match was always going to be YCAC’s to lose.

Losing, however, was something YCAC had no intention of doing and replacement lock Sias “Big Daddy Potheater” Potgieter and replacement hooker Rafi “Ghengis” Khan signalled this by fighting their way through several defenders to score two early tries in the second half. To be fair to Taisei though, they never gave up and spent most of the rest of the match camped near the YCAC line. However, YCAC were not to be denied and when replacement winger Kats “Marathon Man” Matsuo and fullback Pflaum scored length of the field intercept tries Taisei knew this wasn’t to be their day. The opposition did manage a consolation try a couple of minutes before full time but one last piece of trickery from Watkins ensured that YCAC finished with the final score of the match (and Watkins with a well-deserved double).

After such a great performance there was plenty to celebrate and no celebration was more eagerly looked forward to by the club faithful than prop Erich “Freezer” Friess’s date with a bagel. In one of life’s great ironies the man who invented the award for zero tries in a season has now become its most famous recipient and this year went on to claim the prize for a record sixth time. In honour of this momentous achievement Club President Simon “Reno” Ryan had his wife bake a special commemorative bagel for Erich and the big man went on to demolish it (along with two beers) in front of an audience that was both amused (the players) and confused (the wives and children).

Hunter Hemingway

Team Sheet
1. Erich “Freezer” Friess (USA)
2. Dean “Moe” Stallard (Australia) (cv)
3. Leopold “Oz” Visser (South Africa)
4. Stephen “Hang Time” Marcon (England)
5. Aran “Two Inches” Delaney (USA)
6. David “The Goliath” Dix (Australia)
7. “Slow” Joe Fisher (NZ) (c)
8. Steve “Big Cuzzy Bro” Gray (NZ)
9. Dougal “Big Daddy White Serevi” Robertson (NZ)
10. “Big” Ben Patu (Samoa)
11. “Wee” Willie Lapthorn (NZ)
12. Maui “Customer Service” Magele (Samoa)
13. Mike “Hurricane” Griffin (Australia)
14. Rich “Curly” Watkins (England)
15. Noah “The Bottomless Fareweller” Pflaum (Singapore)
16. Rafi “Ghengis” Khan (USA)
17. Yoshio “Nike” Naiki (Japan)
18. Sias “Big Daddy Potheater” Potgieter (South Africa)
19. Conor “Tristan’s Disciple” O’Shea (Ireland)
20. Kats “Marathon Man” Matsuo (Japan)
21. Heihachiro “Ben Affleck” Yamaguchi (Japan)
22. Charlie “Wendy” Caskey (Canada)

24 Apr 2010 – YCAC vs Singapore Cricket Club

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Match report by Hunter Hemingway and photos by Kyoko Obayashi
Click here to view match photos
YCAC 12, Singapore Cricket Club 31 (HT: 5-12)
Tries: Sam Stephens, Ben Patu
Conversion: Ben Patu

“I didn’t think YCAC ever lost.”


Wouldn’t that be nice! And, in fact, the YCAC 1sts haven’t lost a match since Tristan’s Disciple No. 3* joined us at the start of 2010. Mercifully defeats have been few and far between for the YCAC 1sts this season and you have to go back to 3 November 2009 for the last one (against Keio University). However, we definitely deserved to lose this game – we scored the first and last try of the match but the middle was all the SCC.

The SCC brought an impressive sized touring party to Japan, about 40 players in total, and were similar to YCAC in the diversity of backgrounds of their members. In amongst the normal host of Kiwis, Aussies and Brits were several Singapore internationals (including one who played for the SCC B team), a Cyprus international and the current Swiss national team captain.

YCAC were hoping that the rigours of touring may soften the SCC somewhat but unfortunately, despite undergoing what was by all accounts a ‘punishing’ social schedule, they turned up ready to play and freshened up by the conditions. (The SCC have unanimously decided that the ideal temperature for rugby is 15 – 20 degrees with no humidity.) Despite this, YCAC did manage the first try of the game after veteran lock David “The Goliath” Dix made an excellent break in his own half and wisely fed the ball to youngster Sam “Tall Timber” Stevens who outsprinted the cover defence to dot down in the corner. This was an especially opportune score for young Stevens as he had brought his new girlfriend along to YCAC for the first time and this effort surely must have impressed her. The only disappointing aspect of the whole affair was that the new Mrs. Stevens had brought along a friend who was very keen to meet ‘a foreign guy’ (any foreign guy?) and she left single-handed. Rhino and Fraser were suitably disgusted.

The SCC then dominated the middle stages of the game, scoring 31 unanswered points and showing the advantages of practising twice a week and playing regularly against opponents of a similar size and mindset. However, YCAC did have the last word in the match when fly-half “Big” Ben Patu powered his way over from close to the line to ensure that the home team finished the match with at least a little respectability. Rhino then made sure that we came away with at least one victory for the day by giving Patu a ‘home team’ pour in the MVP drink-off which enabled the big Samoan to comfortably out-skull SCC MVP (and former YCAC player) Matt “Magpie” Head.

Hunter Hemingway

* Tristan’s Disciple No. 1: Andy “The Topless Greeter” Kennedy (Note: Not to be confused with Adam “The Portly Winger” Kennedy who is actually Tristan’s boss.)

Tristan’s Disciple No. 2: Noah “The Bottomless Fareweller” Pflaum

Team Sheet

1. Erich “The Puppet-Master” Friess (USA)
2. Daisuke “Silent Assassin” Okada (Japan)
3. Leopold “Oz” Visser (South Africa)
4. Stephen “Hang Time” Marcon (England)
5. David “The Goliath” Dix (Australia)
6. Sam “Tall Timber” Stephens (New Zealand)
7. “Slow” Joe Fisher (New Zealand) (c)
8. Steve “Wall Street” Gray (New Zealand)
9. “Wee” Willie Lapthorn (New Zealand)
10. “Big” Ben Patu (Samoa)
11. Kenji “Red Gloves Watermelon” Yoshioka (Japan)
12. Mike “Hurricane” Griffin (Australia)
13. Tristan “Don’t mention the Panty Shield” Fahy (Ireland) (vc)
14. Rich “MIA” Watkins (England)
15. Ben “Mellow Fox” Duncan (England)
16. Rafi “Ghengis” Khan (USA)
17. Taichi “Posh Spice Junior” Noda (Japan)
18. Conor “Tristan’s Disciple No. 2” O’Shea (Ireland)
19. Arnaud “Mature Big Daddy” Terrien (France)
20. “Kill” Bill Baker (USA)

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