by the Escalator Puncher

The New Zealand Ambassador’s Cup. Once the Shuto League’s most officious affair, this match had now become a simple showcase of the most efficient and ravenous players our competition has to offer. This year, the Crusaders offered up players for both the O35s and Senior’s Squads:

Over 35s:
Fumihiko Isozaki (Hooker)
Will Germann (Flanker)

Seniors:
Nestor Gonzalez (Prop)
Tomo Arakawa (Fullback)
Aaron Pokluda (Prop)

Spectators:
Sean Gibson (Designated Drinker)
Connor Bottrell (Genius)
Takaaki Onuma (Dad)
Ryuji Matsuzawa (Casual)

As the day kicked off, Aaron was scrambling in Wakabadai station to fill the cooler with beers and various alcoholic beverages. Final count was close to 40 cans of beer, lemon sours, hard seltzer water, riboflavin, and an ominous jar of strawberry moonshine. By 11:15, the gang was bundled into taxis and headed north to Inagi Sogo once again. After a quick briefing and getting situated the time was 11:30, with the O35s kickoff happening at noon. Via speed only seen by Usain Bolt, Will and Iso screamed over to the warmup area and hopped in with the other Shuto lads.

Meanwhile, the other lads had congregated in the stands to support our proverbial old boys. Gibbo taking the opportunity to crack open a cold one with the boys, Connor stripping to get a tan, and Aaron being incredulously flatulent next to Nestor. The format for the Old Boys match would be 20 minutes x 20 minutes with an after section for the Master League.Excitedly, both Cru in this division were starters for the fixture. Iso and Will wasted no time getting stuck in, as the opening catch for the Shuto League resulted in a maul. Held up and following the ensuing scrum, the Shuto took off for a try and subsequently lapped it on.

By that time however Connor had been forced to redress himself, and the Seniors lads headed downstairs to kit up. As the O35s raged on in the background the valiant Cru volunteers assembled with the other Shuto lads to get their marching orders. Due to a lack of numbers brought on by the pandemic, the Shuto Capital Selects would be playing the Santama Representatives in 3×30 minute sections with players rotating each section. Tomo and Aaron would lead out in the first section, with Nestor coming on at the end section to seal the deal.

As Will and Iso walked off the pitch as victors versus Santama, cold beers and quick shouts were in order. Will wasted no time pillaging the Moonshine while Iso opted for a cold beer and sideline seat. Simultaneously, the Senior lads marched forth onto the pitch. Santama kicked to start, so the Shuto ran it back at speed. After some penalties and quick taps by the Shuto 9, the blue and gold boys were over for a try. This proceeded to occur for the next 15 minutes, until Santama took points for goal and a rolling maul to bump up their score to 10 points. The back and forth continued for the whole of the first section, until finally the referee’s whistle indicated a break in the carnage.

The second half boded much of the same. Though the Shuto League held a good lead, Santama was slowly whittling it away. For every try there was an answer back, followed by either a shot at posts or rolling maul. The breaking point came at the end of the second period. With a charged down grubber recovered by Santama, Tomo had to make a try saving tackle albeit in vain. With Tomo effectively breaking the oncoming 12 in half, a cheeky offload had the opponents under the post for a score. The final period would start with a Shuto lead of only 35-34.

Nestor, man without fear/bottle opener, smacked and strapped his scrum cap for the oncoming carnage. Slotting in at loose-head prop, the half began with a center scrum courtesy of a short restart kick. The blue pack held its own, as the Shuto 8 picked and ran for some decent yardage. The whole match came down to the last 2 minutes of play. Not rolling away in the tackle, Santama yielded a penalty to the Shuto boys. With the sideline and outside backs screaming “KICK FOR POINTS”, the 10 decided a kick for touch would suffice.

It did not.

The kick for touch came down in play, caught by Santama’s destructive center who, in true Murphy’s Law fashion, ran the ball back for a converted try. In a frenzied attempt to catch back up, the Shuto 9 and 10 raced to the halfway line. Grubbering a kick for 10 meters, it was quickly recovered and immediately ran back for a try. The final whistle blew in anti-climatic fashion.

As the two competitions and competitors shook hands, beers descended from the coolers and into the lads hands. Departing the stadium, the gang headed to Family Mart. After acquiring enough additional alcohol and food, everyone headed for a bus stop. Connor, ever the great navigational mind, took Will (while chanting rain hymns) and opted to walk to the after match restaurant. As the gang boarded the bus and eventually met them there, the Okonomiyaki commenced. After good discussions, cheers, and beers, the night concluded, and another Ambassadors Cup adventure was complete.

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