0 – 30 Tokyo Crusaders RFC – IchikawaRush RFC Referee: MR SHINSUKE KANEDA

By Sean Gibson Sunday, February 7 was a beautiful day in Ichikawa. Well, if you like cold, gray drizzle it was beautiful. But probably none of the 12 Crusaders who turned up that day were of that mindset. Yes, with a large chunk of the team away skiing, others foolishly scheduling their sex change operation consultation on Sunday, and a couple of others just hungover (I guess), twelve was all we could manage, including a last-minute phone call to Kosuke Yamamoto of All France RFC, who graciously came out to prop for us. The opposition was flush with players (including a couple of former Top League players and a Waseda University player) and cheerfully loaned us three to make up the numbers. For some reason, though, they requested unopposed scrums. They also requested we not bother putting up the posts. No one seemed to mind. The game kicked off in typical Crusaders fashion. True, some guys are new to the game and don’t yet know all the rules, but on this occasion it seemed people forgot you need to run towards the ball rather than away from it – Ichikawa Rush collected their own kickoff and touched down for a try shortly after. However, that little mishap would not go repeated for the rest of the day. Well, it couldn’t really, as we would go on to be held scoreless and would therefore have no opportunity to field a restart. Ichikawa Rush were a gritty and determined opponent, absolutely fierce at the breakdown, being both quick and physical. Numerous turnovers at the breakdown (some forced, some just given away through lack of ball control) would be a huge factor in the Crusaders’ scoreless outing). At halftime the score was 20-0. The second half, things improved somewhat, with the defense able to keep the opposition to just two tries. The penalty count was, amazingly, dead even with 9 for us and 9 against us. As the referee mentioned at the after-match, some of the inexperienced players would do well to learn the rules a bit better. I imagine he was talking about offside and playing the ball on the ground. But despite the Kafkaesque atmosphere and our blank scoreling, our very first match against Ichikawa Rush was played within a friendly context and, I think, we came away with some good lessons for the next match. Brandon Fought was, far and away, the man of the match, with numerous hit-ups and some big tackles. Jordan Dill, Dwayne Dortch, Matt Sparrow and Yusei Shimoda also deserve mention for their performances. Also meriting mention were our two new players – Thomas Harwood and Gordon Jones. Thomas is a student of 17 years old who put his youthful energy to good work, having a solid game and looking promising. Gordon is an aussie-rules convert. Despite it being his first game of rugby ever, he was a solid pair of hands at fullback and put in some good runs. Unfortunately, he took himself out of the game midway through the second half by trying to tackle someone with his face. The aftermath would have made a good poster for botox. In a bit of uncanny timing, Ricky arrived at that precise moment to take Gordon’s place and with time enough to deliver one of his customary big hits. After the post match (complete with Tooley’s timeless T-shirt gag), we traveled one stop to our customary standing bar in Koiwa. Our favorite patron was there but this time the police were not involved. Looking forward to seeing you all at the next one.

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