by Brendan Gallagher It was a crisp, grey morning and the boys in blue had gathered en masse outside of the gymnasium in Mizumoto. The illustrious Crusaders were gregarious yet focused, knowing full well what challenge laid in front of them against their rival and formidable opposition, the Tokyo Gaijin. This would be the 2nd time facing the Gaijin in the past two months, and the Cru knew the significance of a 2nd victory in as many chances. As such, over 30 members arrived with a handful of new players and supporters signaling the readiness of the entire club. The team was put through a brand new and rigorous warm up session by Vice Captain Sparrow which nearly tired the entire pack out, but fortunately the alcohol consumption was measured the night before so the team was able to survive the elevated heart rates and were ready to play. The game commenced and typical to every Crusaders-Gaijin match, the violence and the hits were felt immediately. Strong early defense and consistent and technical phases helped the Cru control the ball and threaten the Gaijin’s try line. After a bit of back and forth the Cru was able to swing the ball out wide and for the first time since King Richard I fought Saladin, former Gaijin Chris O’Sullivan made the extra pass out to the wing and Benji Kunde dashed into the try zone for games first points. Tack on the conversion by Sugaru and its 7-0 good guys. The game stayed hotly contested for the majority of the 1st half with the Gaijin breaking through for their first try and after missing the conversion the Cru held onto a slim lead. Something more extraordinary than O’Sullivan passing the ball occurred late in the 1st half as the Cru received a penalty deep into the opposition and with 1min to go elected to go for points. Huh? We’re not sure of the record books going back to 1990 when the Cru was founded but our resident manager/statistician/hairless wonder Gibbo reckoned it was so, so it is. Suguru stared down the posts and buried the penalty to give the Cru a 10-5 lead heading into half time. As expected the Gaijin came out fired up for the 2nd half and the Cru were caught flat footed. Turnover ball and a new 400lb gorilla(prop) boosted their momentum and the Gaijin quickly tied up the match. The pressure stayed on the Cru and their proverbial backs were being put against the wall when a defining moment and likely key turning point occurred. A yellow card by the sheriff of Sheffield Frank Saffrey led to a man down midway through the 2nd and the Gaijin only 10-15meters away from a try and the lead. The Crusaders manned up, making big hit after big hit and defended their try line like it was Jerusalem herself, and repelled repeated attempts by the Gaijin to take the lead. This inspiration yielded a turnover and quick passes and long breaks by the backs leading to a Chris O’Sullivan try. A successful conversion by Jacob Riley put the Cru up 17-10. After a brief back and forth the relentless efforts had worn out the Gaijin and O’Sullivan broke through out wide for his 2nd try with just over 10min to go. A missed conversion put the lead at 22-10. The sheriff returned and so did our full force and continued pressure had broken the Gaijin with them not generating another threat to score for the rest of the game. Incredible hustle and blistering speed by the #8 Brendan the Bull Gallagher saw him hop on a loose ball in the Gaijin try zone to convert the Crusaders 4th and final try and a successful conversion by Jacob padded the lead and finished the game off at 29-10. Man of the match was O’Sullivan due to his key runs and unimagined selfless play(passed 1x) coupled with the 2 key tries in the 2nd half. The aftermatch was held at a wonderful Covid free tabehodai shabu shabu restaurant where the Cru demolished enough pork to give Porky the Pig nightmares in toon town.

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