28 – 17 Tokyo Crusaders RFC – TodaOverTheTop RFC Referee: MR ?
By Evan Hitchman Crusaders Go Over The Top Tokyo Crusaders went on another early morning trek to the middle of nowhere, in the upper reaches of Saitama to face Toda Over The Top RFC – the current champions of the Saitama League. Knowing it would be a difficult game, it was great to see about 20 eager faces at the station for an early start, and we had a very strong line up on the day, including a few new faces and a few returning after long absences. The game plan was simple as always; recycle our own ball, don’t get turned over at the breakdown and …………. give it to Dom! After a scrappy first 15 minutes, we finally managed to get some clean, fast ball to the backs and Dom was released in open space, where he ran through half the Toda backline to score under the posts and put the Cru up 7-0 as the extra points were added. Another fantastic break by Pierre put the Cru in a great attacking position and, after forcing the mistake, a great break by returning veteran Roy Yorke led to Tsuyoshi scoring a fantastic try in the corner. Evan Hitchman was surprised when taking a sideline conversion that Travis Dixon didn’t run in to steal his kick, and as the ball sailed through the posts the Cru were up 14-0. Toda were not making life easy for us though, and were very committed in the tackle and very solid in the scrum, where it seemed like they had 8 props! The grizzled veterans knew how to scrummage and, after losing Alex Howard after about 18 seconds (they were a great 18 seconds though!), we were left without any recognised locks – Evan Kerr doing a sterling job shifting into the tight 5 and Tsuyoshi Saimyo also outstanding in his shift to the back row. After multiple knock-ons and some sustained pressure from Toda, they managed to score off the back of the scrum and we went to the break 14-5 up. Matt Sparrow went down early doors with a knee injury and the Cru seemed to be dropping like flies, but luckily we had a decent bench of 4-5…. and we needed every one of them with Dwayne, Thomas, DJ, new boy Neil Howard (as if we didn’t have enough Howards with Alex and Andy already!) all making a positive impact in the second half. Toda made a good start to the second half and scored down the right hand side after multiple penalties put the Cru on the back foot. Midway through the first half, Dom scored another great individual try to put us up 21-12 but, to their credit, Toda kept at it and after a few more confusing decisions from he who shall not be named – with a very interesting interpretation of what the “gate” was, what “coming in straight into a ruck”, “offside lines” at the ruck and also policing the opposition forward pack from “Toda Always Over the Top” – we could only sustain the pressure for so long, and some gallant and aggressive defence finally gave way when Toda “scored” in the corner with the ball neatly placed on top of Alex Howard’s hands! The last 10 minutes saw Toda throw everything they could at the Cru defence, but it held firm, and a great kick from Neil “Why the bloody hell did you kick that fo..?!…… Great kick mate!” Howard saw us in good field position and locking up the game by going back to the simple game plan of ……..giving the ball to Dom. He duly delivered and scored a great try, beating 4 or 5 as we went on to win 28-17 in a really enjoyable game of rugby. A standard “Henwood for 25” Izakaya post-game function was held and we went home bruised and battered, but most important of all………….with our wallets and phones! Or should that be victorious?! No idea! Special mentions to Takuto, returning after 3 years, who had a strong game, to Roy McGrath who was a beast in the pack, Galdric – who showed his true Cru spirit by turning up for the first half and then going straight to the airport to head overseas, and to Alex Howard for kindly stepping up to the plate and fulfilling Ev’s quota of F’s and C’s for the week! 12th April – lock that date in gents. Our Tokyo Cup game vs Hurricanes RFC (not Wellington, they are rubbish!) will decide whether or not we advance up the ladder in Division 1 or not. This is a must-win game, strongest possible team available. Clear the date now! Tokyo Crusaders 28 – 17 Toda Over the Top Dom 3, Tsuyoshi 1 – tries Evan 4/4 conversions Tokyo Crusaders Team: Alex Herrera, Yusei, Brandon F, Alex Howard, Ev Kerr, Gen, Galdric, Roy M, Evan, Travis, Matt S, Dom, Pierre, Yorkie, Takuto, DJ, Thomas, Tsuyoshi, Neil Howard, Dewayne. Support Staff: Stewart, Eric, Sean G, Tom, Rob, Xenia