High winds whipped the tree tops around and a warm, driving rain pounded across the bright halogen lights that lit the wide turf pitch that Osaka’s Kamesenryu rugby club called home on the evening that the Rowers Japan World Tour visited to play a friendly. The urban rugby club that had taken the name of a martial arts training academy in Dragon Ball Z played with the warrior spirit that we were quickly learning was at the core of Japanese rugby.
The structure was two forty minute mini-games; our first fifteen taking on theirs for two 20 minute halves, followed by another two 20 minute halves for the over 35 circuit. Osaka came out firing at a Rowers tour squad that was a patchwork quilt of talent. Players out of position and suffering from the hydration issues one might expect form a team on day 9 of tour. Osaka was physical early and often, enough to wake the Rowers up and make it clear they were in a game. After a period of seeming confusion in the storm, the VRC found the handle and started to look really good with ball in hand.
Second row forward and mariocart-character-come-to-life Kevin Nanne got the Rowers on the board with a ten yard ramble, carrying tacklers as he went. Kamesenryu kept coming though, running hard lines and keeping the play mostly in the forward pack. The Rowers were able to match their effort on D with notable hard hits by second row forward Graham Young and Gus “the Bus” Crowe, who laid a tackle on a guy that caused tour mate Mark Lovell to exclaim from the sideline, “Wow. Gus just marmalized that guy!”
The strong forward play opened up space on the outside and the Rowers backline took full advantage. On-field tour hero Matty Lizst, Jimmy “The Gent” Corbet, and “Smokin'” Joe Holland all got sprung in space to make one count in a decisive Rowers Victory. Nobody seems to remember the score.
Rowers Old Boys
The Rain continued through the second mini-fixture, where the tour’s Old Boys roster found themselves matched against a Kamasenryu side materially identical to the 15 who took on the top side. Fatigue wasn’t an issue for the hosts, who were ultimately able to put up more points than the road-weary Rowers Senior Squad.
Veteran fullback Duncan James, on loan from Colorado, played wll with ball in hand and created chances on the outside that led to a try by ageless South African winger Dave Anderson and a strong, flashy run by substitute loose forward Justin Parlato.
Strong defense in the opposition half forced a handling error by the hosts that veteran fly half Brian Anderson was able to clean up and make count, but it wouldn’t be enough. The Rowers Old Boys lost by a score that I don’t remember.
Kamesenryu were excellent hosts. We took over the back room at a local pub, sang songs and generally enjoyed the very best of an Osaka Friaday Night. Some players were able to trade Rowers gear for the unique, loud, yellow and black Kamesenryu shirt that has “You Fucki’n Rock” emplazoned on the front underneath the club name. The origin of the phrase and the reason it appears on the jersey remain unclear, but does it even really matter?
All photos by tour photographer extraordinaire Kelly Eglisson. More Pictures of the Kamesenryu games in the gallery.