By Ken Kurihara,

The final round of the 2023 Shuto League saw the Tokyo Crusaders take on old foes All Jin Jan at the familiar stomping ground of Inagi Nagamine. On a frigid late-autumn Sunday afternoon, the Cru, 30-plus strong, rolled into the suburban mediocrity of western Tokyo in high spirits, gunning to claim Shuto gold for the first time in three years. Minutes before kickoff, the boys were dealt the unfortunate news that the opposition couldn’t field enough players, and the game was therefore won by default.

The game still went ahead however: several Cru warriors selflessly pulled on All Jin Jan jerseys and experienced the ultimate displeasure of playing against their own team. Regardless, the game commenced and the boys came out of the blocks with a hiss and a roar, determined to still put in a performance.

The big boys in the tight flexed their muscle, with the likes of Woodsy, Johnny Sins (yes, he plays rugby on the side), Sam, and of course Captain Brett providing the platform. As usual, halfback Matt Beasley commanded the boys around the park with aplomb, combining very efficiently with the silky, sexy skills and speed of the backs for the finish; Jaime, Taku, and Sohei in particular proved too slick for the opposition to handle. The Cru went into the sheds 36 points to the good, thanks to some well-taken tries from Shota and Sam and a series of shanked conversions from Jaime.

With the second half came mass substitutions, and the fresh legs provided the impact; substitute winger Kyohei showed some nice touches on both sides of the ball, debutante Thomas carried strongly in the midfield, and Geo fully imposed his uncompromisingly South African play (and personality) on the opposition. On the other side of the coin, Robby C (aka Pennywise), being the silly clown that he is, came on for a 16-minute cameo and gave away 4 penalties.

The scoreboard kept ticking over in the second stanza: Merlin (yes, there’s a guy on our team named Merlin, don’t be jealous) went over for a brace, Taichi got a well-deserved score, and Jaime missed a few more conversions. The Cru racked up a final score of 60 and kept All Jin Jan on the donut, securing the Shuto League in style.

Special shoutouts go to the self-sacrificing Cru superstars who volunteered to help the opposition fill numbers: Tom Lister went the full 80, and Alex Boyle was arguably the best player on the park for both teams, playing a half for each. Andrew, Nic, Kotaro (the squat king), and Drew (not the squat king) also went behind enemy lines for impressive cameos against the Cru.

A wonderful post-match function was organised by the ever-reliable Alex Boyle, and the Tokyo Crusaders, newly crowned Shuto League champions, crusaded into the Tokyo night.

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