Crusaders Crawl Past Setagaya On a dusty Saturday on the banks of the Tamagawa, Tokyo Crusaders Rugby Club set off on the annual fixture against our good friends from Setagaya RFC. With just the bare-bones squad on hand we were just about able to field a starting 15 with a couple of reserves for what was going to be a hard fought tussle. The starting team for the Crusaders was: James, Yuuki and Hiro in the front row; Corey and Steve with their heads between those guys; Shogo, Yuta and Tavis in the back row. The backs were led by Owen and Art in the halves; Sparrow and David in the centres; and a back 3 of Alan, Dom and Nabin. Sean ran the sideline, with Eric, Motoki and Ev making up the numbers on the bench. The game started off nicely enough with the Cru dominating early possession and scoring a nicely worked try after Art’s big break through the middle, finished off by Alan to grab the early 5-0 lead with Art missing the tough conversion from out wide. Crusaders continued to dominate the opening exchanged and when Dom was able to finish off a great team move near the sticks, giving Owen a kick that even he couldn’t miss, the Cru were out to a 12-0 lead and it looked like it was going to be an easy day at the office. Art was also doing his best to put the opposition off their game with some big hits, some of which were legal and not offside! Setagaya had other plans though and with the Cru perhaps taking their foot off the gas, they roared back into the game forcing plenty of mistakes from the Cru who for the latter part of the half couldn’t put 2 passes together and turned over the ball way too often. Setagaya grabbed just the one try though in what was becoming a scrappy contest in the windy and dusty conditions and we went into the break 12-5 up. In the second half with a few changes made, Tavis went off for Motoki after a solid first half, always imposing with his runs and firing up the locals, with Shogo and Yuta doing a great job at the breakdown. Eric also made a welcome run-on for the Cru, on for Dom and with the Cru refreshed from the break the passes started to stick, we started to string a few phases together and low and behold after a break through the middle Yuuki was able to dive over for an early try to put the Cru back in front 19-5. Again, complacency got the better of the boys and for the rest of the half there were plenty of knock ons, poor options, turnovers and plenty of penalties. The Cru were camped inside their own half most of the rest of the second half with barely any possession to speak of, and under a mountain of pressure with penalty after penalty being given away, and it was only a matter of time before Setagaya went over with a few quick tries to make it 19-15 with ten to go. Game on! On came Ev for his first game in god knows how long to steady the ship and run things from fullback and see out the game. No doubt we’d be in safe hands here……thought no-one as Ev knocked on a very catchable kick inside his 22 to gift the ball back to Setagaya just as we thought we might get a bit of possession. Despite that gift the boys dug deep and some tough goal-line defense held the opposition out, with phase after phase. Finally Setagaya made a mistake and the Cru got the feed into the scrum. Time was up and all we had to do was kick out the ball, the win would be in the bag and we could all head off for some well-earned Okonomiyaki. So in true Cru fashion, we fed the scrum, we raked the ball to the back of the scrum and then Nabin threw what can only be described as a “Hitchman Pass on Steroids!” – like a rocket, completely past Sparrow and over the dead ball line to give Setagaya a scrum with no time left on the clock. With not much left in the tank it looked like Setagaya would grab a late winner and the Cru were camped on their line, repelling raid after raid as the oppo tired to pick and go to get the last few inches. Somehow with a guts effort from all the forwards, we managed to hold them up, the whistle was blown and the Cru came away with the win, 19-15. Post match we went to the local Okonomiyaki place as usual, and were disappointed when it was booked out, but thanks to Shogo all was not lost as he found a smashing Chinese place, and soon to be Cru regular venue near the station – although judging by the amount of jugs that were sunk, they may be soon reviewing their nomihodai rules! Final Score: Tokyo Crusaders RFC 19 (Alan, Dom, Yuuki tries; Owen, Sparrow conv.) def. Setagaya RFC 15 MVP Points: Owen – 1 Tavis – 2 Art – 3 Shogo – 4 Dom – 5 (MVP)

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