Tokyo Goannas – 84
Japan Samurais – 95
By Simon Cumming
With the temperature around 35 degrees, a Japanese team of over 25 players and Goanna regulars the quality of Ron, Bish, A-dog and Rowie out of the line up, things were always going to be tough (i.e. it has nothing to do with us not being fit enough). However the 14 Goannas that came (and the 11 non injured ones that finished) gave a Herculean effort and a titanic struggle ensued between sheer pace and athleticism on behalf of the Japanese team and size, nous, savvy and guile on ours.
The first quarter saw the Goannas predictably build a strong lead. Our stronger bodies and better skills took canter stage and we finished the quarter with a 4 to 5 goal lead. Nick was doing a solid job containing the Samurais livewire full forward Take and both Dan and Huddo in the midfield were inspirational through the centre with both supplying goals and kicking them themselves.
The second quarter was a vastly different encounter as the Goannas stamina (or lack thereof) began to take it’s toll and the Samurais speed and pace started to take effect. It was left to some moments of individual brilliance to ensure the Goannas kept the lead at half time. Sully, who was hung onto all day (apparently holding the man doesn’t apply to foreigners – and dropping the ball doesn’t apply to Samurais) took a great mark from the full back and kicked truly and also set up Steve Smith with a deft tap who was able to streak through into an unmarked goal in one of the better set plays of the day. Brenton was fierce in the forward line and also was able to pinch hit in the ruck and Oges was also good in this term coming of the bank flank and was quite often asked to stop a wall of Japanese players running at him (reminiscent of the flying Hawks of the 1980’s). Half time and the Goannas up by 2 goals.
The longer break helped the Goannas regroup and for the first 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter you could have been fooled into thinking the Goannas had their second wind. Alas this was not the case and the Samurais continued pressure and hard running was relentless and began to take it’s toll. The Goannas still battled on manfully as the temperature only got higher. Dan Rudolph supplied some strong and precise kicking from the backline, Simon, whom after holding together the defence in the first half was asked to move in the midfield did admirably and Travis Wilson (the Goannas mister fixit) was moved onto the Samurais gun forward and, predictably, shut him out of the game and won possessions himself. Special mention also to Mikey who, when finding himself surrounded by 3 Samurais picked up the ball, evaded a tackle and got boot to ball to set up a Sully goal and gave a real spur to the team. The quarter ended on a sour note as Huddo did his knee at the centre bounce and had to be chaired (or rather benched) from the ground. The Goannas were now running low on numbers and an extra special effort would be needed for the final term. End of the 3rd – Samurais by 2 points.
The final term provided a heroic end to the day from both teams and no-one left the field with anything to give. The Samurais continued to run in packs and rotate their players and were it not for some strong defence from Jason in the backline and Spaceman’s run and intensity on the half back line – the score could have been a greater margin. In the end, the Goannas went down by 11 points and everybody gave their utmost. One can’t help but wonder about the final result if the Goannas had a few more regulars in and the temperature and humidity were a little less.
Overall however, what really stood out was the great endeavour and courage of the Japanese National Team the Samurais. Their fitness levels are amazing and their skills are improving all the time. The goannas really hope they give a good shake of it at this years’ International Cup. We’ll see them with our full complement of players at this years’ Narita Cup when the weather gets cooler to exact our revenge.