by Ev Hitchman
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The Cru arrived for their annual match with YCAC full of confidence, after their great showing in last year’s conga-line fixture and their complete dominance of the Hard Rock café patrons opposition. Crusaders had finally ended a barren run of 7 years of consecutive – and sometimes heavy – losses in this fixture, earning a well-deserved win in 2015 by 38 points to 29. The Cru were hopeful of keeping the ‘Mac Cup’ again, to fill out an ever-growing trophy cabinet at our Team HQ at Roppongi Hobgoblin.

The annual game between Tokyo Crusaders and YCAC is a memorial game to remember Gareth Macfayden, a No. 8 who turned out for both the Cru and YCAC for many years, before he tragically died in an unfortunate accident in 2001. Since then, both clubs have played an annual fixture in his memory, affectionately known as the ‘Mac Cup’ with the Cru winning the first game 6-5 and YCAC holding an overall lead in victories 12 to 5. As is usual, and unlike friendly matches or training at Koiwa on a Sunday morning, we had about 40 players put their hands up as available for this prestigious fixture. Come kick-off time, we had a strong Crusaders outfit ready to try and retain the Cup on this most special of days.

International Referee Steve Lewis was unfortunately injured the week before the game, so we were lucky and appreciative of the local Kanagawa referee who was able to step in at late notice and allow the game to go ahead.

A minute’s silence in memory of Gareth was held impeccably and then it was down to business. Every member of the Cru looked ready to go, with fire in their eyes and minds switched on thinking about the first conga-line/order of 8 jugs of rum and coke/time we get asked to keep the noise down tackle or hit up of the day.

Brendan G had the earliest ever substitution in a Mac Cup gam,e coming off with a head injury after about 30 seconds, to be replaced by Gen. YCAC started the brighter of the two sides and dominated early on, jumping to an early 12-0 lead through some soft defence and too many turnovers. We lost Seb to another injury mid-way through the first half, which hurt us at the breakdown and made things harder for us, losing his frenetic work-rate and efficiency at ruck time and in the loose. Lawrence bagged a much-needed try before half-time, and we were still in the contest at 5-12 down.

The second half started in a similar fashion to the first, with too many turnovers and the Cru not looking threatening enough with the ball or asking questions of the YCAC defensive line. Another try to YCAC made the score 19-5, before Lawrence was able to capitalise on a period of Cru dominance to score near the posts and bring us back into it at 19-12. YCAC quickly put paid to any Cru comeback with 3 more tries to put the result beyond doubt, ending with a 36-12 deserved victory to regain the Mac Cup.

Solid performances were put in by all, but we just weren’t good enough on the day. We’ll need to step up our game after the Christmas break, and know what it takes in attack and defence when we play stronger teams such as YCAC.

Matt Foster was named MVP by the oppo and we had plenty of jugs, beers and cheers in the YCAC Sports Bar with our teammates and opponents as we celebrated the memory of Gareth one last time, until we do it all again in 2018.

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