Frank stood in Yoyogi Park, contemplating the world around him while sipping thoughtfully on a Strong Zero. The blooming pageant of sakura crowned the trees, and some vague anxiety nagged at his heart. Perhaps it was simply that curious energy that accompanies the changes of the seasons; perhaps something long-forgotten was beginning to stir. He smoothed back his mane and sighed. Yes, that must have been it: something about the sea of blossoms stretching across the park resonated with him on a deeper level. What was he forgetting? The sight of raining sakura, plucked from branches by the wind; the scent of the spring breeze; the sound of the ‘buffalo’ gently whispered into his ear; it all kindled a spark of remembrance. The semiotics of the scene rushed together – the sakura had spoken their hidden truth. What was Frank’s grand realisation, then? The pathos of ephemerality? A wistful feeling of ubi sunt? The soothing knowledge that the blossoms will bloom again, year on year, turning transience into eternity? No, not quite: ‘Ahhh, fuck’n’ell. I’s tha’ Tow-Kyo Cup next wake-end.’ As the fallen angels from Division 1, the Cru started their 2018 Tokyo Cup campaign with the understanding that they would be the boys to beat. Luckily, the squad assembled at Misato-Chuo that Sunday morning was a mighty one, featuring a powerhouse pack, swift and solid backs, and a well-stocked subs bench. On top of that, everyone was
delighted bemused to see the return of clipboard warrior Reece, lured from Sussex by his beloved Tsukuba Express. The marauding band made their way down to the pitch – several hours early, as per Tokyo Cup diktat – and began their time-honoured tradition of pissing everyone off. Before long, it was time to kick off.
After a few solid carries from the pack, the first penalty was awarded against the Cru, giving the young bucks from Meguro a chance to score – and score they did, shrugging off weak tackles for a very quick lead. Although the boys in blue responded with scrum dominance and an early hospitalisation, the referee found plenty of opportunities to penalise (only the Cru, mind…), offering another easy try to the Chasers. Undaunted, the Cru stuck to their guns. The monster trio of Brett, Cocksy and Frank rampaged through scores of tackles, and Reece’s newly-packaged ‘Hobbit Ball’ carved a gap in the blind-side; Shivin would surely have capitalised with a try, had he not been absolutely buried by the full back. Luckily, the boys kept the pressure on, and things gradually fell into place. As the Cru finally found their rhythm, a gap in the defence let Rob ‘Marital Bliss’ Galbraith sprint away into the sunset, followed by a Susumu conversion.
The Cru jumped straight back into the game, as Dom – complete with bizarre neck-lettering, ‘daddy’ or something – shot up and crushed the first receiver; Shogo barrelled straight in for one of his many steals. Not to be outdone, the rest of the backs also put their bodies on the line to score a second try: Art’s smashes up the pitch caused almost as much concern to the Cup staff as his oddly-coloured undershorts, and Sparrow showed speed and energy that can only be achieved by Weetabix doping. Tim turned his child management skills to the squad and led a charge deeper into the Meguro half, giving Shivin the opportunity to atone with some solid footwork.
Five metres from the try line, Yasu broke the cardinal rule of ‘forwards don’t kick’, with a bizarre chip-and-chase attempt that was instantly charged down. Set back on the halfway line, the Cru’s finest hour began. A string of scrums ensued, with the Cru pack marching the Chasers towards, and over, their try line. The try, unfortunately, was held up, and the put-in awarded to the Cru, obviously, because it goes to the attacking team Meguro. Infuriated by this, the Cru crushed the Chasers scrum against the head, and whipped to the ball to Dom for an easy walk-in. Despite a final flurry of penalties, the Cru held out their lead until half time.
The second half resumed in very similar style, with Yasu and Jay spearheading the pack in a series of pick-and-goes towards the try line; Chester, G-Sup and Jerry exploded from the bench, matching the intensity with their own heads-down rugby. Although the referee continued his penalty crusade, the Cru chipped their way through the defence, culminating in one of Brett’s standard seven-foot-stretch tries – and a beautiful slot from Susumu. As the constant scrums began to take their toll on the front row, Hiro entered the field, keen to show off for the Cru’s new watergirl. The battle of attrition continued across the centre of the pitch, with one notable pause – the medics bringing on the stretcher to cart Frank’s wounded balls off. As energy levels started to fall, Nabin, Taka and Gibbo joined to keep the Meguro menace at bay, with Owen donning the fly-half mantle and spreading the ball with aplomb. Despite some incredible steals from Cocksy and well-orchestrated support plays, the Chasers drew closer to the Cru line. Hiro’s new love filled him with superhuman strength, sitting the opposition 7 down and enabling their try to be held up; unfortunately, the referee’s sudden realisation of how rugby works led to a reversal of the earlier controversy, calling the correct decision this time…once again, against us. Some sloppy tackles then gave new gaps for the Chasers to slip through, scoring two tries in quick succession. The final whistle blew at 20-19: the Cru’s Tokyo Cup run had narrowly started with a loss.
After further bafflement at the Tokyo Cup’s rules on the subs bench and the Chasers not letting Cocksy keep his Man of the Match shirt, a disgruntled Cru made their way to the infamous ojisan bar (‘much more fun than sitting out in the sun’) in Matsudo. A great surprise awaited the Cru in the form of a native English speaker serving the drinks, and the aftermatch lived long into the night, culminating in a drunken Tim disappearing from 7-11 like the victim of a cartel kidnapping. Time will tell whether or not the Cru can embark on a victorious campaign, and if Hiro can ever love someone as much as he does ramen.
By Reece Morgan
MVP points were as follows:
5 – Cocksy
4 – Rob
3 – Brett; Frank; Yasu
2 – Shogo
1 – Reece