By Aaron Angelo

In true Tokyo Cup fashion, the Sunday began in the early hours of the morning. As Crusaders across the metroplex awoke and traveled to the chosen battlefield of Misato-Sankei,there was a certain feeling in the air. Questions like “What adventures would the day hold?”, “What strength would Nerima bring to the table?”, and “Did anyone hear me fart on the train?” swirled about the team’s heads as they assembled for check in. After the usual pre-match semantics, the team lineup was announced featuring new faces and grizzled veterans.

Starting XV:

1 Wada, Junki (C)
3 Honjo, Shota
4 Saffery, Frank
5 Pokluda, Aaron
6 Yamawaki, Hiromi
7 Paku,Yon
8 Galbraith, Rob
9 Morris, Owen
10 Matsumoto, Suguru
11 Limin, David
12 Sumner, Dominic
13 O’Sullivan, Chris
14 Kunde, Benjamin
15 Maeda, Susumu

Finishers:

16 Hirano, Gen
17 Kato 
18 Matsuo, Kazuma

Support Staff:

Stewart “Tooley” Henwood
Brett Pentland-Smith
Junko Saffery
Keith Wilkins
Evan Hitchman
James Kimball
Mathew Betts

Facing down river and 15 stalwart Nerima competitors, the match began with some pretty chippy action. The contact area was fairly contested as larger framed Cru players clashed with the smaller but quicker Nerima opponents. Unfortunately, Nerima was successful in planting their flag initially as they racked up three tries in quick succession.The referee became frustrated as well, and sent our team captain Jay to the sin bin. Needless to say, more points found themselves on the board immediately after. The Cru refused to lay down and die as before half time Susumu Maeda and David Limin scored two tries to light a fire in the bellies of the team. A fire so bright, it led to another yellow card as Dom Sumner left a nice bootprint on a Nerima players backside. Following a physical forty minutes which saw some cards pulled, savage hits, and let downs on defense, the team headed to the sideline with the score line reading 10-36 in favor of Nerima.

PLOT TWIST
In what would begin to turn the tide of the game, the half-match huddle was surprisingly composed. No one spoke over one another, and interim Coach/Advisor Brett Pentland-Smith pointed out what was good and how to capitalize. Other advice included continued dominance in tackles, making sure the outside was covered, and of course enjoying a wonderful Easter Sunday that was bearing intense rugby fruits. After a loud and heartfelt break, the lads returned to the pitch for what Evan Hitchman would later call “One of the ballsy-ist comebacks in Cru history”.

As Nerima sent the pill on high, collective fists and teeth clenched: It was time for some bastard rugby. After a good collection of the long ball and ruck setup,the ball went wide for the backs to wreak havoc. Chaos ensued as follow-up ball and offloads were made, eventually culminating in a Tetsuo Kato try to reel a win back into reality. Suguru Matsumoto added his name to the tally as well slotting his first kick at post for the morning. Like an ostrich receiving a prostate exam, the Cru were slowly easing into form. Our opponents refused to fall silent however, as Nerima scored a series of tries immediately.

It was at this time the forward pack decided they’d had enough of the backs playing their game, and proceeded to positively annihilate and hold every scrum that followed. With the engine room of Frank Saffery, Aaron Pokluda, Yuki Adachi, Jay Wada, and Shota Honjo providing enough scrum pressure to give Yon Paku plus the flanks freedom to release and kill, havoc ensued. More breakdowns were being secured, the ball was being suppressed, and offensive ball was getting out timely and cleanly. The overt hostility of the pack came to a climax as the Cru took a lineout on the opponent’s 22 meter line. After a successful catch and maul-call, the Cru drove for 12 meters until engulfing a Nerima flanker and drawing advantage. Through quick hands the ball went wide for the backs until a cut inside for Yuki resulted in a try. Retribution was at hand. As the level of violence on the part of the team seemed to be increasing, Nerima’s endurance and bench went the complete opposite direction. As subs were coming on for fatigued and wounded oppositional players, ground was being gained and a firm offensive groundwork being laid. Dom would atone for his stamping sin by crossing the line near the 60th minute, while dragging multiple defensive players with him.

It was at this point the sideline gods beckoned for the return of the starters, and so came forth the Cru’s finishers in Gen Hirano, Tetsuo Kato, and Kazuma Matsuo. The line had been advanced, it would now come down to them to hold it. After receiving another kickoff the backline came alight as Benji Kunde, Chris O’Sullivan, and Rob Galbraith decided the current point card was unsatisfactory. Via some cavalry charging and tackle dodging, the Cru found themselves over the line for a try in Chris which put them in range of a victory. Akin to an Easter Bunny in a child’s dreams, the nightmare continued as the Crusaders scored again through Chris, putting the men in blue ahead by two-points. Deciding to stomp on a proverbial throat rather than an actual one this time, Dom fiddle-diddled straight up the middle to put victory firmly in the grasp of the Crusaders. Once again, Suguru’s well aimed boot handled the rest. He finished on the day with a solid ratio of 5/8 on kicks. As the ball flew into touch at the eighty-fourth minute (injury time played), the Crusader’s cheered wildly. The day was theirs, achieving one of the largest comebacks in club history and winning the opening Tokyo Cup fixture 50-41.

As the after match formalities commenced, it was time to name the memorable folks of the day. For his skill and brutality off the scrum and tackles, Paku took home the Cru’s man of the match status. A close second for the accolade was Chris, who had electrifying runs and line breaks. The Crusader’s voted Nerima’s #13 as MVP, seeing as he led his team with distinction and valiant skill even in the face of impending defeat. Both sides were lauded by official Kiyoshi Makabe for fair and efficient play beyond the Crusader’s two cards. 3-2-1s are as follows:
Kato, 5
Paku, Yon 4
O’Sullivan, Chris 3
Matsumoto, Suguru 2
Adachi, Yuuki 1

The next battle awaits. We looking forward to facing Dasewa May 26th and continuing our Tokyo Cup campaign.

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