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By Steve Howden

On a hot Sunday 11th May the ‘Cru’ descended on Misato Chuō Station for their second game of the Tokyo Cup. The “ridiculously” early start of 8am didn’t seem to catch people out, as most were there at the scheduled time, albeit some more hung-over/drunk than others. An army of taxis delivered the team to the ground and we soon realised that the promises of a grass pitch were true as at least a ¼ pitch did indeed have grass on it.
The team began its warm up only 2 hours before the game which gave us plenty of time to get cool again before we started. The 30 mins finger nail check by the stewards before the game contributed to this as well. Luckily, it was a beautiful day and the perfect setting for a fast and expansive game of rugby. At 1 stroke past 10am a slightly more sober Travis put the ball high into the air for the Crew’s galloping pack to chase and the opposition soon realised that on top of being twice their size we could also play rugby. The first points were put on the board within 4 minutes by Travis after he took advantage of an opposition put on the back-foot by the aggressive running and rucking of our forwards.
As always seems to be the case, after scoring the first try the team switched off and the opposition were able to push us back in the maul and bundle the ball over the line. A few stern words by the captain and a reminder of what was said in the team talk before the game – “we concentrate on the simple things first” – gave us the impetus we needed to get back on the front foot.
Within 15 minutes we had scored another 3 tries and this set the tone for the rest of the game. The backs continued to capitalise on the superior effort made by the forwards to hit the break down hard and recycle ball quickly. This is something that we have struggled with in previous games and will catch us out when up against stronger opposition. After 28 minutes Chris Ekstron complained to his inside backs that he was yet to touch the ball. Seven minutes later he had scored his hatrick, demonstrating his pace and ability to beat almost anybody in a 1-on-1. He and the rest of the US military boys will be sorely missed when duties require them to leave Japan shortly.
At half time the score was 55-5 and half the team was replaced to make way for the rest of the squad that had made the effort to turn up for the early fixture. As ever the turnout was good and a special mention must go to the travelling support that enabled us to easily fill all of the staff requirements for the Tokyo Cup. I don’t think there was a single stoppage when all of our waterboys and girls didn’t rush on to the pitch to hydrate the team.
The second half continued in much the same way as the first half and the ‘Cru’ continued to put points on the board. The opposition were able to pull back two tries, which was a measure of the effort they made and their refusal to give in. Even after the number 11 was taken off with concussion after being put to bed by a wicked hand-off from Ricky Rodgers, the opposition continued to put their bodies on the line. This was one of the many acts that earned Ricky his ‘man-of-the-match’, closely followed by brilliant performances by Chris Ekstrom and Neil Maclean.
The game finished 93-15 but, despite the flood-gates opening at times, the main positives were what the team did in the loose and the way in which we conducted ourselves on the field; two areas where we have been found wanting in the past. A sterling effort by the referee and his two linesmen allowed for a cracking day of rugby. And, contrary to the norm, there was even a clubhouse where we could shower (some players), drink beer and gob-off after the game.

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