Match Report: Shuto League 10s Tournament
September 06th, 2015

by Travis Dixon

Check out the accompanying pictures here.

After two solid practices with excellent turnouts (28 players over the two practices) our chance to play some real rugby finally came on Sunday the 6th of September in the form of the annual Shuto League Hub 10s Tournament. Last year we were knocked out in the first round of the playoff stage and we were keen to go further this year. However, with some sub-par performances in pool play, we made it difficult for ourselves.

Our first game was against Fuji Club, whom some of you may remember from the Tokyo Cup last year when they made an amazing fight back late in that game to come within one try of winning the game. Luckily we held them out on that occasion. But even with only 6 players turning up for the kick-off, the Cru somehow still struggled. Possession was going to be key for the whole tournament, as it is for every match this year, and two vital mistakes cost us dearly. Our first possession of the game was an excellent one and we marched Fuji about 80 metres of several phases, only to drop the ball in the red-zone while on attack. They capitalised on this and scored their first try, going ahead 1-0. They managed to hold us out and this remained the score for this opening game.

For some reason I can’t remember much about the match against Tentomushi RFC, except we drew 1-1. Was this the match when Gibbo was put in the clear and ran over the dead-ball line? Even if it wasn’t, that’s worth a mention somewhere in this report. It’s also a good time to welcome some of the new players to the Crusaders who played well all day. Reece Morgan, our new “prop” ran hard and put in good tackles. Yoshiki was solid at 10 and looks like an excellent option to take over from yours truly at that position this season. Atsu, our smoking #9, played every minute of every match (the only player to do so) and never once looked like slowing down. Ben and Jerry are also great finds for the Cru, not for ice-cream, but for their excellent defensive work. Ben ran good angles out wide and Jerry showed his grit in defence in the final against the Gaijin with some big hits. Taichi showed his versatility all day, being able to cover backs and forwards positions, which will be a big help this season.

We always knew Komaba, our third match, were going to be tough and they eventually made it all the way to the Grand Final. We fielded our strongest team against them and had another excellent opening drive, stringing together several phases with good rockies (pick-and-gos), pods and a couple of maydays (backs ball). But yet another dropped pass and a turnover gave away possession in the red zone. Komaba made a break in mid-field and went on to score an easy try after we left our ruck exposed without a guard dog on the blind-side. These are the areas we’ve been working on in practice and we need to get them right for big games. We fought hard but could not overcome the 1-0 margin and this is how the scores finished.

We’ve played Dandelions in the past and we were able to give a few guys who weren’t getting much game time a run out. Kenta played his first of rugby at the 10s, not only for the Crusaders, but ever! Well done, Kenta. We managed to squeak out a victory in this one, 1-0, with a try by Seth at the death.
We went up against two fellow Crusaders in our fourth match against the new club, Ayoama. Rei and Yusei are working hard to start a rugby club and we wish them luck with this. They gave us a scare early on, when we kicked away possession on the opening play and they went up 3-1. Luckily Van was there to bail us out with some storming runs, often with three guys hanging off him, and we went on to comfortably win 3-1. The points differential would later be quite important.

Our final match was against Moccos and we knew it was do or die. If we won, we’d be in the playoffs for the big prize and if we lost we’d be playing in the consolation pool. We played solid rugby and managed to win 2-0, which secured out spot against the Tokyo Gaijin South in the first knock-out match.

As the rain started to appear on the horizon, we kicked off in the final clash. Roy turned up at this stage, looking every bit the knight in shining armour rock-n-roller. It’s always great to play the Gaijin, regardless of the format. With their flying Fijians across the field we knew good tackles and defense would be key and we didn’t let ourselves down in this regard. They scored one try from a reeling scrum where the half-back ran blindside 40m to score. Again, unfortunately, this was the way the scores ended up and yet again we found ourselves knocked out of this tournament in the first round of the playoffs. We have the players in the squad to go far in this tournament next year; we just need a stronger turnout on the day.

The rain pelted down at this stage and the afermatches were rather subdued, with the Chippy that has become our surrogate club-house probably quite relieved only 8 of us or so braved the weather to have a few beers, chips ‘n chicken.

As I said earlier, welcome to all the new guys to the Crusaders. With many old heads leaving last season we welcome new blood and will continue to do so all season. Thanks Megumi and Aiko who worked hard working for our team and working for all the teams, respectively. Thanks Gen for liasing with NHK and getting the Cru’s only mugs on the TV. Thanks Tooley for getting to the ground early and pitching the tent (literally, not figuratively as per usual). This was definitely appreciated late in the day. As were the likely ladies you brought along to spectate.

MVP votes and game results posted below.
Match Results:
Game #1 vs. Fuji Club RFC L 0 – 1
Game #2 vs. Tentomushi RFC D 1 – 1
Game #3 vs. Komaba WMM RFC L 0 – 1
Game #4 vs. Dandelions RFC W 1 – 0
Game #5 vs. Aoyama Club RFC W 3 – 1
Knock-Out Stage: vs. Tokyo Gaijin South L 1 – 0

MVP Points
Atsu – 5 = Played well all day with crisp passes and sharp runs.
Van – 4 = Was his usual imposing self on defense and with the ball in hand
Ben and Reece – 2 = Both had strong debuts for the Cru in attack and defense.
Tom – 1 = Ran his usual brachiosaurus-like runs, as per usual.

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