78 – 14 Tokyo Crusaders RFC – Acorn RFC Referee: MR NAGATA
By James Payne ‘Wonder if it’s possible for an earlier kick off a little further away next week? I was thinking… Sendai at 7am?’ – Frank ‘the Tank’ Saffery’s diplomatic team-wide email sent at 7:15am on Match Day. To say the trek to the ground took a long time is an understatement, but boy, was it worth it. A very large Crusaders team descended upon the magnificent Victory Ground at Soka University early Sunday morning looking forward to a good game of rugby. They were not disappointed. It was almost like summer had returned, with the sun shining and smatterings of local wild life in attendance. There to greet the men from the Cru was a determined and skillful group of gentlemen from Acorn RFC. Whilst the game was marked on the calendar as a friendly, the pre-match emails from Cru team manager/sometimes player Stewart Henwood warned that this was not a team to be taken lightly. How right he was… Right from kickoff it was clear that Acorn had skills and guts to take the ball and run hard. However, a level head by big Jason Gall (a trait he was to maintain all day) meant that possession went Cru’s way and they were off. After some good recycling by the forwards (something they should be proud of – the boys had a great game in this regard), and some short pop-pass runs, the backs were able to get some quality ball from half-back RJ Surita and work their moves. The first try came through a strong run by Van Allen through the line at the 4 minute mark, which would be his first of two for the day. The next try took a bit more time – the new(ish) American recruit Pierre Sims showed the boys what a bit of time spent in the gym verses the pub can do, and crossed over after 15 minutes, in a fine display of athleticism. Despite some quality turn-overs won by Acorn, and some excellent play by their No. 8, and Wing, Cru kept a level head and got Van across the line for his second. Given some early mis-fires from the tee by Captain Travis Dixon (sorry ladies, he is now officially off the market), Van stepped up and kicked the first conversion of the match. Following a quick try by Pierre, a sense of apathy took hold and the Cru took its foot off the gas. For this, Acorn punished them. They scored two excellent tries – the first was created by a burst through the Cru backs which was finished off by new Crusader Matt Gladue, who had volunteered to play on the Acorn wing. Fair play to the man, it was a great try, which was created by some solid set play and speed in the Acorn centre. With the try count 4-2 to the Crusaders, this easily could have been a point where Acorn wrestled back control of the game. Their scums were solid (not helped by number 8 Paul Skurr continually lifting his head looking for a solo try opportunity), and they were quick across the paddock. However (O’) Captain (my Captain) Travis Dixon, successfully rallied the troops, and got the lads to lift their heads and commit to their tackles. This was displayed quickly by full-back Callaway whose try-saving tackle would have made Superman hang his head in shame. Leading by example (he was excellent all day and would be rewarded with man of the match), Dixon scored a try in the dying minutes of the half and successfully converted to bring the score at the whistle to 31-14. The second half saw wholesale substitutions to enable all the huge 23 man Cru contingent to get a run. This included surprise inclusion Clarence Lukes, a veteran rugby player who apparently (from reliable sources), flies airplanes for the US Air Force. This is bound to come in useful for future games given Stew Henwood’s propensity to agree to games played on grounds 4 hours from Toyko. Moving on, another key substitution was Vice-Captain Tom Cocks who along with Seth Robson re-asserted leadership in the forward pack, resulting in more consistent scrums and breakdowns. However, the second half belonged to the backs, with substitute half-back Philippe Buzon getting fantastic ball out, resulting in a flurry of tries. Word on the street is that in his native tongue, Frenchman Buzon has a tendency to display colourful language during heated moments on the field (a common theme with Cru half-backs), but contrary to this, he played like a gentleman. The first try of the half went to T Dixon, followed by another two to Pierre and then a hat trick to Clarence Lukes. By this stage, the game was all but secured for the Cru. Acorn did not let this deter them and they dug deep to contest every breakdown. In the end it was not enough. Special mention should also be made of Paul Skurr who, after continually taking the back’s ball to show off his individual brilliance, finally crossed in with 17 minutes to go. He dominated the game all day and was determined for his moment of glory. Well, he got it – great stuff. The final score was 78 – 14 to the Tokyo Crusaders. However the score line does not do the Acorn boys justice – they fought hard and consistently, were constantly in the faces of their bigger opponents, and should be commended for their guts and determination. Special mention and thanks should go to the referee Nagata-san who calmly oversaw a good clean game of flowing rugby, with the penalty count 6 for Cru, 9 against. There were no yellow cards. The Cru man of the match as voted by Acorns was deservedly won by Travis Dixon. The Acorns men of the match were Susumu Ino and Fumihiko Oda. Clarence Lukes was voted best on the ground by his Cru team mates. Well done. Post-match, the Cru members were especially happy for the hot showers. In true university spirit, Pierre was sighted practicing his robotic dance moves with the college hip-hop club. Rumour has it the Dean of Soka University is considering offering him a scholarship off the back of the dance display, along with his skills on the rugby field. We have our fingers crossed for the man who we understand wants to obtain a degree in home economics. Good luck mate. Drinks were held at Tengue Izakaya near Hachioji Station, which gave the boys the chance to unwind and relax after a hard day. In short, it was a fantastic day against valiant opponents, and the Crusaders players were happy to come away with the win. Thank you to Acorn RFC for the match, and we hope for a re-match soon. Special player mentions Firstly, to the new guys who came out to play. Thanks to Hiroki Tsuboi, Clarence Lukes and Greg Bolivar who came out for their first run. As mentioned, Clarence scored a very tidy hat trick for the Cru, and Tsuboi and Bolivar made themselves very handy on the wing. We look forward to further games with you. Special thanks to Matt Gladue, who, as previously mentioned, sacrificed his first game for the Cru to play for the opposition. Next, to Matt Gladue’s son Easton and Clive Callaway’s son Matt who turned up were unable to get a run. Unfortunately the large turn-out by the Cru players meant they could not get on. Nonetheless, thank you for coming out lads, and we appreciate the commitment. Best Call Call of the day went to new father Paul Ralph which was made deep in the second half. Evan Kerr, who has astounded all with his hat trick of attendances this year, arrived with one of the strongest porn star ‘pool-cleaner’ moustaches this writer has ever seen (and this writer has done his homework in that regard). Stewart Henwood could not help himself, and near the end of the 2nd half announced from the sideline: ‘Evan, what is with that moustache! You look like someone out of the 1970s!’ To which Paul interjected: ‘That’s funny Tooley, you’re the only person here who remembers the 1970s.’ Correct. Worst Call Goes to rested Australian International scrum half Evan Hitchman, who suggested that the writer back the Japanese horse Admire Rakti in the upcoming 2014 Melbourne Cup. Unfortunately for all involved (most notably Admire Rakti), not only did the poor horse lose the race, it died before the race even began. Talk about the kiss of death! And finally… And finally, a mention for No. 8 Paul Skurr. Skurry has been playing for the Cru for 8 or 9 years now, and has been a decisive figure both on and off the field. He is leaving Japan to move to Hong Kong (one doubts it is for the purpose of joining the ongoing democratic protests). This writer for one has always enjoyed his company and willingness to openly discuss his net worth and bonus pool whilst simultaneously banging the drum at Geronimo’s for the 3rd time that night. Whilst he has promised to make an appearance now and again as an Old Boy, he will be missed as a regular Cru player. As a tribute, a few of his Crusaders team-mates have offered the following kind words:
(To be sung to the tune of ‘Flying Without Wings’ by West Life) Everybody’s looking for that something One thing that makes it all complete You’ll find it in the strangest places Places you never knew it could be
He found it in a bar in Koiwa All drenched in mayonnaise Who can deny the joy it brings When he’s found that special thing When Skurry’s eating chicken wings“Paul Skurr: Japanese interpreter, gourmet, fly half…is there no beginning to his talents?” “Skurry runs like a cartoon barrel with legs.” “Get back in your laboratory, Dexter.” And this writer’s personal favourite: “Yeah, I’m going to pass on this…” We have also included for the benefit of all a nice picture of Paul. And it is a wonder people are still surprised he got married. Best of luck in Hong Kong big guy!