by Reece Morgan It all came down to this. With two strong sides – Blackeyes and Mandala – trampled underfoot, it was no surprise that the Tokyo Crusaders and the Tokyo Gaijin would meet in the Champions’ Cup final. The gaijin derby would take place once again, promising a brutal 80-minutes of forward-focused physicality. Although the Gaijin squad seemed…remarkably different from usual, the Cru were unfazed, selecting their finest 15 for the clash. The tension could be cut with a knife as the two squads warmed up at opposite ends of the pitch. The whistle soon blew, and the match began in earnest. As expected, the game kicked off with storming runs from the Gaijin half, and equally brutal hits on the part of the Crusaders. Dylan put in the first crippling hit of the game, laying the full-back low – to his credit, he was soon back on his feet for the duration. After about ten minutes, some speedy play from the novel Gaijin centres took them over the line for the first converted try of the game. Losing composure, the Cru started to give away penalty after penalty, with Alex Herrera unfortunately receiving a yellow card. Capitalising on this drop in manpower, the Gaijin came flying in hard, but quick rucking and textbook tackling kept the ball away from the Cru line, often being turned over from spillages. Shortly after Herrera returned to the pitch, an overlap gave the Gaijin an easy opportunity to score their second try of the day. Keen to get onto the scoreboard, the Cru managed to steal the restart, and after some set-up rucks, BoJo Foster built up a head of steam from miles behind play: when he caught the ball, not even the flying Fijians could stop him rolling in for a try. The next fifteen minutes passed by as a stalemate, with both sides ruining excellent breaks with foolish errors. It was an absolute war on the pitch, but a joy for the spectators to behold. The half-time whistle blew with the Gaijin leading 14-0. The change of halves held much the same, with two opposing squads feverishly making breaks, falling back, and waging war across the middle twenty metres of the pitch. A missed tackle allowed the Gaijin wing to slip through a score another try. At this point, frustrated by the referee missing offences that the Cru considered worse than Herrera’s yellow, a new fire was lit under the boys in blue, and the team that trounced Koryo reared its head once again. Rob broke through the centre for one, with another following shortly after. At this point, the notoriously short Gaijin temper saw Tavis carted off to hospital after a brutal elbow to the face, the referee shaking the opposition player’s hand before giving him a red card. Hmm. Incensed at this, the Cru soon rolled back in for another try, leaving the score at 22-19 in Crusader favour. Another error let the Gaijin through again, taking it to 26-22. Breaking their way down the pitch, it came to the last play – although the Crusaders felt on the verge of taking victory, the referee called the ball trapped in a ruck…just as Reece was about to pass it out. The whistle blew, much to Crusader chagrin and Gaijin delight. At 26-22, after storming performances from both sides, the Gaijin took victory. If there’s one true winner from the day, though, it must be the fans. Treated to Kanto’s true gaijin derby (sorry, All France!), it was a game replete with massive hits, textbook scrummaging and hard running lines. Both sides came out of it with one thought on their minds: what a game. With one cup apiece, the two sides clearly look forward to meeting one another in the Tokyo Cup, for the deciding match of the 2016/17 season. After the game, given that Monday was a holiday, the Cru opted to go large. The Four Horsemen made their way to the Shuto League Awards night, sweeping the board and claiming the trophy. After the Hub rendezvous with crying girls, plenty of chu-ing and a Loving Feeling being Lost, things carried on into the night and the foundations for managerial roasting were laid (in a manner of speaking). The Gaijin MVP was one of the Yokoyama twins. We look forward to seeing them on the pitch again! The Crusader MVP was no. 8, Matt Foster. MVP Points were – 5: Foster; 4: Jimmy; 3: Cocks; 2: Luke; 1: Brett.