Report by Tim Collins After a lengthy break over the holiday period, the Crusaders were excited to get back onto the pitch on the 21st of January 2018 for the final game of the Shuto League and required a victory against Nerima to finish in the top three. Nerima are a fast and mobile team who beat the Crusaders in the second round so the Cru were determined for revenge. On a day with perfect conditions for running rugby, the Crusaders took a small lead into half time and were able to capitalize on their forward dominance to open up the game in the second half with strong support play to win the game 38-5 and finish with the bronze medal in the Shuto League. The first half started with a good period of ball control by the Cru but four penalties in a row gifted the space and territory for Nerima to run in the first try. The Crusaders held onto the ball with better discipline for the next ten minutes and after a drive from the lineout, Gen Hirano scored his first try for the Crusaders. While the Crusaders dominated possession and territory for the remaining first half, they were only able to convert that pressure to one more try to Susumu Maeda and were lucky to head into half time with a 12-5 lead after Susumu ripped the ball over the try line from a Nerima player who was about to dot down. The Crusaders came out in the second half with intent and used the size and speed of their big back rowers to create space down the wider channels. This lead to a well constructed try for Owen Morris under the posts after Angus Brown had executed the biggest “don’t argue” of the season with Nerima players unable to bring the big fella down. The substitutes were called on ten minutes into the second half. Corey Carter entered the game trialling his groundbreaking protective rugby goggles and looking like Dr Nefario from Despicable Me. With the fresh legs, more space opened up for the final 25 minutes and the Crusaders were able to score three more tries, two going to Brent Pentland-Smith and the final try of the game to Tavis Sartin. There were notable performances from one to twenty five but the forwards dominated the Nerima forward pack to create the space for a strong 38-5 win. Up front, Chris Ford had a great scrummaging game and Shogo Kuwahara had a robust debut for the Crusaders even after wearing a rugby ball kicked directly into his face by Susama. The loose forward trio of Angus Brown, Brent Pentland-Smith and Isao Hayakawa were deservedly voted first, second and tied third respectively in the Crusaders MVP awards for their strong runs and tough defensive efforts. For the backs, Susama Maeda finished tied for third in the MVP voting and had a great game at fullback, with one try, four conversions from six attempts and a try saving rip. Cru extended their medal winning fall seasons to 5 in a row since being promoted to Shuto league division 1 in 2013: 2013 – 1st 2014 – 2nd 2015 – 3rd 2016 – 1st 2017 – 3rd

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