35 – 24 Tokyo Crusaders RFC – Koryo RFC Referee: MR ADACHI
By Paul Ralph In the late autumn sun, to the incessant whine of the radio control car track near by, team manager Tooley, twenty six able-bodied players, a few injured players (including a coffee and vodka swilling Travis), and a few WAGs (including Derek), gathered beside a rugby field in Saitama for the last game of the 2014 Shuto League season. After dropping two games earlier in the season, retaining the champions tag for a second year was out of grasp. However, securing second place on the table remained the goal. Between the Cru and second place stood Koryo RFC. Koryo, new to the Shuto league this season, were a club that had been in decline over recent years, having previously competed as high as the East Japan Division. But Koryo still retained a wealth of experience, game knowledge and skill, and prior to the game were sitting second on the table, the position the Cru were keen to take from them. Tooley had spent the night prior with his abacus, calculating permeations of the points table, points for-and-against, and the best value nomihodai bars in northern Tokyo. The abacus beads told Tooley that the Cru needed to score four tries (to gain the bonus point), win by over 7 points, and drink in Ikebukuro. While the Crusaders had a wealth of players (and unfortunately not all were able to take the field), Koryo were short on numbers, and had to recruit players from the game played beforehand to make up a full 15. Despite having a cobbled-together team, it was evident from the kick off that Koryo were fast and skilful in both backs and forwards. The Koryo backs possessed a slick, fast passing game, and were keen to give the ball space at any opportunity. Their forwards meanwhile were masters of the breakdown, and were prolific at stealing Crusader ruck ball. Koryo utilised these traits, turning the ball over in a ruck and quickly spinning it wide, to score the first try of the game. The big Cru forwards were making ground however, when, near the Koryo try line ,the ref blew his whistle for a penalty. Halfback Hitchman thae proceeded to lambast his forward pack’s ruck technique in a supremely cunning deception. For as everyone, Cru and Koryo player alike, turned to listen intently to Evan’s critique of the ruck situation, misleading everyone as to who’s penalty it was, Adam “the mind works quicker than the legs” Briss took a quick tap, and drove over for a try from ‘105’ metres out. After a retaliatory try from Koryo, the Crusaders finally started to play to their thoughtfully devised game plan – give the ball to Dom. Possessing the athletic ability that makes gym teachers swoon, Dom was able to make massive yards on the wing, scoring the next two tries. At the end of a half that had been to and fro, the Crusaders were up 21 -14. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if an angry giraffe was ever touched with an electric cattle prod, Tom Cocks on the charge gives a fair representation. Few can stop him (except of course the smallest guy in the opposition team), and Cocksy barged over 10 minutes into the second half to score the Cru’s desired fourth try. Koryo, in typical Japanese tenacity, would not give in and scored the next two tries (both unconverted). With five minutes to play, only Evan Hitchman’s perfect goal kicking performance was keeping the Crusaders in front. The seven point margin that was needed had however been eroded. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and with a minute left on the clock Van “the Bus” Allen carried the ball over the line in typically direct style. Evan kicked the extras, the ref blew full time, the score read 35 – 24 to the Crusaders, and Tooley hoped his calculations the night before were correct. Koryo 2nd five eighth/inside centre/#12 Mr Myonsun Lee, who personified the speed and accuracy of the Koryo back play, was awarded opposition man-of-the-match by the Cru, while Koryo named Dominique Adams as their man-of-the-match. 3,2,1s awarded by the Crusaders fraternity were; 5 points – Rob Galbraith 4 points –Dominique Adams / Tom Cocks 2 points – Roy McGrath 1 point – Evan Hitchman Following the match, and adopting the Sean Gibson method of navigation (follow the cutest local girl you can find), the team trekked back to the station, raided every combi on the way for beer and fried chicken, and made for the after-match function at the Shoya Izakaya in Ikebukuro.