Saturday turned out to be a very interesting day, indeed. Ten of our illustrious members turned up at Misato-Chuo Station in the early hours for a few short games of “rugby” – that term is in quotes because it wasn’t Rugby Union. It was Rugby League. Well, it wasn’t exactly rugby league. It was Rugby League Nines, which is basically the Rugby League version of Tens. Learning the basic rules of Rugby League was the first order of the day and, as there are apparently only 12 rules for this particular code of rugby, the lads seemed to take to it quickly. When I refer “the lads” I feel the need to clarify: originally, both Tokyo Crusaders and All France were scheduled to participate but, due to lack of numbers, we were compelled to combine our 8 match-fit players with All France’s 6. The name of the team was subject to debate and many names were proffered, including: “All Fruz”, “CruFra”, “Frusaders”, “Les Fruz” and “Le Crunch”. Each moniker had its own backers.

With that, the team got off to a great start in the first match versus Joto Donkeys, another Union-based team, scoring twenty unanswered points in the first half (keep in mind that a League try = 4 points and a conversion=2). Tristan opened the salvo after three minutes, followed by our esteemed colleagues Cedric and Antoine, to be capped off by Tristan again scoring a try one minute before halftime. The Donkeys hit back shortly after half-time with a try but that would prove to be the end of their efforts. After much back and forth, Tristan completed his hat trick for this match, followed by All France’s Kei a mere one minute later to make the final score 30-4 our way.

Our next match was versus Narita Chaozu. This is a team whom, you may remember, we were recently scheduled to play but forced to cancel due to Corona. Having never played this team, we weren’t sure what to expect. The first half seemed to be smooth sailing, with All France’s Cedric (remember him?) and Antoine opening the salvo, with Tristan and newcomer Masa (welcome to the Cru, Masa!) closing the first half with tries scored in quick succession just two minutes before halftime. The second half proved to be more challenging. Despite valiant efforts by both teams, neither could manage to cross the line. So, the second half remained scoreless but that was just fine with us, as it retained our 16-0 victory.

We went into our third match knowing full and well what we were facing – Superman. Having played this team in Union in the past (mostly to our detriment) and witnessing them dismantle their previous opponents on this day, we knew we were in for a hard slog. And that prediction panned out. Le Crunch (OK, now you know my personal favorite nickname for our combined team) showed great promise early-on with two tries scored by Nico within the first two minutes of the opening whistle. But, of course, Superman were down but not out as they scored a try two minutes later and another at the halftime whistle. The rules of the tournament dictated that the try-scorer must attempt his own conversion as a drop-goal, so conversion percentage was extremely low for all teams. This was especially so, given that a rugby league ball is slightly smaller than a Union ball. Suffice it to say, conversion percentages were horrendously low across the board. The second half of this match was the contest we came to expect – an established Union team (aforementioned team would be Superman) versus a last-minute-thrown-together team (that team would be Le Crunch). And it panned out to be at least as expected. It was a very tense nine minutes with only one score during that time. “Which team scored that try?”, you may ask. Well, that try was scored by ………………………………………….Le Crunch. More specifically, Tristan. His fifth try of the day secured our berth to the final. Who woulda thunk it?

We approached the final with a mix emotions, one of the more common ones being “I want to play but damn I’m cramping up badly.” In the end, we were spared another 18 minutes of playing semi-injured by Superman themselves when they informed us that they couldn’t continue due to too many injuries. So that was that: a rag-tag bunch of Union players took the trophy at a Rugby League tournament. The Abiko Ducks did a great job of organizing and with the weather cooperating (mostly) it turned out to be a great day out. Being able to run around and tackle again was a lot of fun and hopefully whet the appetite of our players for our next test on September 26 vs Zenkai Beers. See you there!

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