by ‘Glen Taylor’ “ They wanted to play against the Crusaders, not just because we are physically big, but because we never give up till full time. “ – post-game comment from Captain Travis Dixon. It was a beautiful, sunny early morning in Matsudo, Chiba. The Tokyo Crusaders had their third ‘annual friendly’ match against Matsudo RFC. Head to head is for the Cru (2-0) in previous meetings. Our opponent was very hungry for a win against us. By the time the Cru arrived at the venue around 9am, the opposition were just finishing their warm-up with 25-30 players on the field. And the Cru, on the other hand, barely had 16 players, because it’s very difficult for some cru players to make it to a 9am meet-time from West Tokyo or Kanagawa. The team was missing their try scoring duo of Pierre Sims and Dominique Adams as well as a few key players. A few players were ‘pushing themselves’ despite having injuries from previous games. The first 20 minutes went in favor of the Cru. After we held out inside our own 22 meter line, Jordan Dill and Takuto Suzuki outsped the opposition to score, giving the Crusaders a 14-0 lead at the 15 minute mark. Perhaps the Cru was luckily helped by the many knock-ons by Matsudo in the first 20 mins, but because the Cru were struggling to organize their diffensive line with a different line-up than usual, Matsudo started to attack with confidence. They are well-drilled and good at securing the ball, and play well phase by phase. Matsudo scored 5 tried by the end of the 1st half. The half time score was 31-21 to Matsudo. I assume Matsudo thought that as long as they took up the ball strongly, they could break the Crusaders’ defensive line. And it seemed that their confident grew as they added 2 tries and 2 conversions by 5mins into the 2nd half (45-21 to Matsudo at 41mins). Crusaders on that day had many reasons they could have excused a lackluster performance : only 16 players – missing many of our 1st-string players because of such an early game, 3 players started carrying injuries, and we lost another 3 players due to on-field injury, sin-bin, and having to leave early to attend a touch-judge course. But the Cru didn’t drop their game. Captain Travis stood up and performed outstandingly in offense and defense. Takuto, Dill and Philippe followed and the Cru scored three tries in a row. With help from Neil Howard’s precise conversion shots, it went into a 5-point game with 7 minutes to go. Despite Matsudo scoring the next two tries and finishing the game with score a 57-40 to them, all the 16 Cru players fought well to the end. A special thanks to Amber Bair (Nate’s gf) for helping out as water-girl and photographer.