The script for the Cru’s last Shuto League match of 2015 was supposed to be similar to the one for their 52-15 victory over a depleted Shinjuku Jack RFC team in September. The 17 Crusaders who showed up for the sequel on a sunny Autumn day in Katsushika no doubt expected that they would be running through huge holes in the defensive line and shrugging off tacklers like they were paper-dolls. If that was what they were fantacising about (Tooley was thinking about naughty nurses and strict policewomen) as they ran onto a nice astroturf pitch on Nov. 15 then their reverie was about to be rudely interrupted. At first, it appeared that things were proceeding as expected. Soon after kickoff stand-off Travis Dixon made a line break and a nifty off-load that lead to a converted try under the sticks for prop Yusei Shimoda. And it wasn’t long before the Cru were back in Jack’s red zone. When lock Matt Foster rushed to take a quick tap 5 meters out with only a couple of smallish backs staring him down it seemed as if the floodgates were about to open. That was when things began to diverge from the script. As Matt rushed to tap the ball it appeared to take on a life of its own and, as if by magic, leapt out of his grasp. The defenders who had been preparing to be smashed into the ground quickly transitioned to offense, toeing the ball deep into Cru territory. From there the Jack stayed on attack and crossed the line. It was a pattern that repeated itself throughout the first half. The Cru forwards would build momentum before a turnover, a deep kick and a bumbled return. Each time the Jack were left deep in Cru territory and they quickly racked up the points, leading 19-7 at halftime. It dawned on many that ShinjukuJack RFC were a different beast than the lame donkey of a team who had taken the field with borrowed players in the first game. With a full bench and playing to keep their place in the first division they had transformed into a something resembling an aggressive billy goat. The goat continued to chew through the thorny Cru defense, butting aside defenders until it had scored five unanswered tries to lead 31-7 with 15 minutes remaining. Perhaps it was the thought of playing a relegation match in freezing conditions in January that spurred on the Cru but at that point something changed. On defense, Travis – named man-of-the-match by the opposition – moved to the backfield and negated the Jack’s kicking game. At last, passes started to stick and gaps opened up for Cru runners including wing Toshi Takada, who made a good fist of his first ever game of rugby. Versatile prop Reece Morgan, who found himself in the centers after Neal Howard twisted his knee, scored. Fellow front-rower Yuki Adachi crossed the line soon after. But it wasn’t until yours truly bumped off two defenders, spun like Baryshnikov and touched down under the posts that the possibility of an improbable Cru victory entered people’s minds. Amazingly, in the last stanza of play the Cru drove to within a couple of meters of the Jack’s right-hand corner. This time no voodoo could save the defenders from Matt – judged top man on the field by his fellow Crusaders – as he scooped up the ball from a ruck and waltzed into the end-zone. The scores were tied at 31-31 and Travis had a chance to win it with his kick. Ice cool, he struck the ball nicely and it was only a post bending in the wind to bat down the ball that stopped it from sailing over. It can only have been divine intervention that stopped the kick from sealing the win but it was, perhaps, the fairest result. The Cru finished their Shuto League season with two wins, two losses and a draw leaving them mid-table on points with a place in the first division assured for next year.

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