by Brett Pentland-Smith

The opening round of the Champions Cup saw the Cru take on the Blackeyes at Inagi Nagamine – a ground notorious for its warm-up area, akin to a children’s sand pit. Despite it being the heart of winter, they were lucky enough to have clear skies and no wind. A perfect day for rugby.

Coming off 2 hard losses in friendlies, the Cru were up for a big one. All the big men pitched up (except Downer), and they were well-focused to take on a champion team. Receiving the kick off, it took just 2 minutes for the Cru to make their first break. Jimmy took the ball down the blind side of a ruck, shaking off 2 defenders and running into space. Looking over his shoulder, he found a lock flanker running a great line on his inside. Like MJ of the past, he attempted to lob the ball over the defender, only to be slapped backwards. The keen flanker, however, was not to be outdone: Brett scooped the ball up and ran in the final 20m, untouched, to score under the posts. The Cru never lost the lead again.

Within 20 minutes, the Cru stretched the lead to 21-0 with a try to John and a second to Brett. At some point, Owen got white line fever and bamboozled himself out of a try, and Joe thought he was back on a football ground, administering a forward pass not unlike Peyton Manning. Meanwhile, as predictable as Gibbo’s intentions in Thailand, Reece went off with a stuffed ankle, giving the big man, Brendan, a run. Tavis also came on for Kashi to add some grunt to the pack.

Despite being up on the scoreboard, the Cru were still giving away penalties aplenty. At half time, they had given away 7 and received just the 1. Furthermore, the Blackeyes were still playing hard and fast rugby, never giving the Cru an inch they didn’t deserve.

The first few minutes of the second half were all Blackeyes: they managed to cross the whitewash in the fourth minute. Three minutes later, Frank decided to behead one of the smaller guys which cost him 10 minutes in the bin. To add insult to injury, they scored another 5 pointer to make it a 9-point game. In danger of trying to coast to the finish line, Cocks had to galvanize the men and keep them going. Sparrow threw a few strong words in there too. It seemed to work as, even with a man down, the fresh legs of Tavis crashed over to add another five to the scoreboard.

After 10 minutes of really intense arm-wrestle type play, Blackeyes tried for a chip into space at the back. The man of debut, G-Sup, went back to collect. Under pressure and with very little room to maneuver, he managed to break the line and then run in an 80m try – easily the try of the game! Just 3 minutes later, G-Sup made another break and scored under the post. At 40-12 and just 10 minutes or so to play, the bench was switched out giving everyone a run. As it tends to happen, this opened up a few holes that were exploited quickly by the Blackeyes, who ran in another 2 tries. At the final whistle, the score read 40-26 to the Crusaders. A hard-earned victory!

Foster, despite not scoring any points, had been menacing around the park and so was crowned MVP by the opposition. 3-2-1’s went to G-Sup, Foster, Joe, Jimmy and then Brett, as voted for by the lads themselves. Okonomiyaki was waiting for the lads at Dotonburi and few pints were put back to celebrate a great win!

Team Sheet: 1. Reece, 2. Yuki, 3. Kashi, 4. Frank, 5. Cocks, 6. Brett, 7. Rob, 8. Foster, 9. Jimmy, 10. Owen, 11. G-Sup, 12. Sparrow, 13. Joe, 14. Tomo, 15. Tsukasa, 16. Brendan, 17. Hiro, 18. Tavis, 19. Corey, 20. Aurelien, 21. Gorman, 22. Junior

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