Match Report – Tokyo Crusaders v. All France

Saturday 15th March
By Travis Dixon

As the team waited outside the train station, our new French import, Laurent, made an astute observation: he looked at the All France team waiting and looked back at our team, which included the likes of Frank, Pat, the Toms and Skurry and said, “I’m happy to be playing for the Crusaders today”. It was apparent very early on that we would be fielding a strong team. With such a strong squad, we chose to lengthen the halves and rush through the warm-ups to get the games underway early so we could dash to the pub to watch the Six Nations games. It turned out to be the right decision as the game proved to be yet another positive step in the development of the Crusaders, as a team, and as a club.

Before the match began, Travis told the lads that we didn’t need to worry about our attack; it would come naturally with the size we had in the forwards and the class we had in the backs. It didn’t take long to see what he meant. From the opening scrum Tom and Trav ran a switch, with Tom breaking a tackle and offloading back to Travis who scored in close to the posts. It was the beginning of a bit of an onslaught of tries. Following close behind was a try from Wyn, who we are pleased to have back in the squad after dealing with a few niggling injuries last year. Eric also managed a try for the Cru, which is a just reward for the hard work he has been putting in week in and week out. We managed to send Tom back to the Philippines with not just a fresh supply of penicillin, but also a try. He and Luke combined well in the mid-field all game. It was a welcome return to the Cru for Tom who played a couple of storming games for us in the mid-field, reminding us what a class player he is. As Tom leaves, we are hoping to see more of Luke after he moves to Tokyo. Our backline will be one of the best around if Tom can manage a return to Japan soon, and we keep getting these athletes from the Navy coming along on the wings. On that note, it was a bitter-sweet welcome back to the Cru for Jordan Dill “Pickles” as he played a solid game on the wing for us, only to be injured during the league match. We hope he’ll be right for the next game. Luis also scored a good try after some rummaging work from the forwards and he had a solid game at 9 in the absence of our skipper. He ran tirelessly all day to be there at every ruck and managed to fill the noise-void with ease.

So with the attack clearly taking care of itself with the Cru scoring 31 points in the first half, the goal for the team from the beginning of the match was to keep the opponent scoreless. Despite making too many turnovers from poor offloading decisions and handling errors, the Cru played with spirit and All France never threatened the try-line in the first half. The talk at half time then was simple: keep it that way! It speaks volumes about the Cru’s fortitude, and depth, that we were able to practically swap our squad with 12 changes made at half-time and still keep All France to just one try in the second half. Well done to Gavin who picked up a double in the second half. The score finished up 41-05, in only sixty minutes of rugby.

A huge improvement can now be seen in our defensive line and our decision making at the breakdown. In particular the forwards did an awesome job of controlling the ball and working in pairs and threes to make sure we retained possession. Good stuff, Cru!

We now need to make sure that we are communicating on the field more, both on attack and defence, as well as trying to make better decisions with pop passes. The Cru will always live and die by the pop pass, but we do need to try to reduce the amount of handling errors that arise from this aspect of our game.

Congratulations and welcome to Laurent, Nathan and Ricky who all played great games on debut for the Cru. Special mention to Ricky who picked up 2 points for the Man of the Match honours in just one half of rugby. His awesome try saving tackle earned him many nominations. It was perhaps one of the best tackles I have seen in the Cru, and it shows the level of determination and commitment we all need to show on defence. Thanks also to Nathan and Eric for playing a half for All France, although I don’t think James is too keen on the idea of Eric being swapped again after his body-slam tackle.

Having so many people turn out on Saturday was a huge bonus as it allowed everyone a chance to rest in order to be fresh for the following the game that Tooley ‘the Torturous Bastard’ scheduled for the following morning.

The 30-minute league game that followed the match was lost by 22 – 20 (4 tries each; we missed 2 kicks, they only missed 1). This is a top effort for the Crusaders to almost beat the Warriors in a game a lot of us clearly are not sure how to play. It was good practice for working on maintaining our defensive line, as well as running straight on to the ball at pace.

The after-match function was held in the Kakko Izakaya near ShinKoiwa station with some All France RFC and Warriors players. Thanks to the 4 Crusaders who represented us there as the others went to Legends to watch the Six Nations, or home to rest for the following day.

321s were…. 3 points – Tom Ball, 2 points – Brandon Rogers, 1 point – Travis Dixon
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