I felt great getting off work and caught a streetcar to the station where 6 of our team members were meeting to drive to Naruto, a township of Tokushima City on Shikoku. There were four Japanese players, (two in front, two in back), John the coach, and myself. Our driver, a lead-foot after my own heart, got us to our hotel an hour ahead of schedule, despite starting a half-hour late, and we went to a delicious, little izakaya (Japanese restaurant for drinking, with easy-to-share entrees). Since it was still only September 25th, I did not partake in the drinking part, but the food and conversation were both excellent. We left to stop off at a convenient store, pick up more snacks and drinks, and meet up with 6 more of our team, just arriving at the hotel. I had booked us a tiny and deserted, old ryokan (Japanese style lodge with tatami mats and futon), so we laughed and talked late into the night and took many pictures.
The next morning everyone was in surprising good shape. I guess they had not drank as much as it seemed, or maybe my coveting brain was simply torturing me that night. We dressed out in the morning, grabbed breakfast on the way, and showed up early to warm up. Although the weather had been cool and overcast all week, it chose this, one morning to be blazing hot and sunny, and even as I squeezed out my sunscreen I knew, I would burn.
Our A.M. preliminary matches were excellent. Of the three teams we faced we won them all, and one team gave us a great challenge, which honestly does make winning feel more satisfying. We stretched some more, ate some lunch around 12:30, and booted back up to warm up our muscles to match my burning skin.
Our next match was against the other field's 2nd place team, and they were good. They gave us a great run for our money, but the inexperienced ref calling the first half was so noticeably bad at calling the game, that a national level player who happened to be visiting to watch the tournament offered to step in and ref the last half of the game. The pace picked up, everyone got into it and gave it our all. Our two teams traded the lead 3 times and at the end of it all, we were tied 5 to 5. Now, in touch rugby, when a woman scores a try (goal), they receive 2 points. Therefor we were told that the winner would be determined by number of total tries, rather than a sudden death. This meant that we lost with our 4 tries to their 5 all male tries. And we played the losing team from the other pitch for third place. This definitely killed our morale for a while, but the last game was equally fun and we got our picture taken with the team we tied (who went on to win the tournament) after the closing ceremony.
Oh! Also, because we won that game, our team still managed to take home the third place, with the same or better win-record than 2nd place (depending on how you count our 4th game). All in all, the whole experience was one of the best we've had as a team and consistently fun. Probably for the first time ever at a tournament, there were no injuries and we had plenty of people for substitutions, which meant we kept up our level of play, even though our last game.
We rock. Go Ship-Heads!