By Alex Boyle,
Game 3 of the Shuto league was arguably the most difficult game of the season so far and the tension amongst the match day squad was palpable. A big squad assembled in West Tokyo at the knee scraping Inagi Nagamine Ground for a 1500 kick off.
It was an overcast day with the temperature in the low 20’s, which made a very nice change from playing the last few months.
On the team sheet it was a mixture of some club stalwarts and a debutante at flyhalf, Craig Stewart and a strong bench with good numbers.
The Crusaders kicked off to start the match and began with a period of good phase play, possession and territory. Unfortunately we were unable to capitalise with the Gaijin moving up field and then scoring off a quick penalty tap after some sustained pressure.
Gaijin 7- Cru 0.
From the restart the Cru again had some nice territory which resulted in a Crusaders scrum deep in Gaijin territory. The debutante Craig Stewart at 10 had a nice offload to Dom Sumner who broke a couple of tackles and dotted down just to the right of the sticks to make for an easy conversion by our reliable kicker Hymei.
Gaijin 7 – Cru 7.
The game then went into a bit of a holding period with the half ending on the Cru goal line. Some strong lineout defence and some even stronger goal line defence with multiple phases being easily repelled, eventually forcing a Gaijin error meaning the teams went to the sheds level at half time.
The second half would certainly be one for the ages. A scrappy arm wrestle ensued with several scrums and lineouts mid field. Eventually the Gaijin no. 10 had a solid individual effort finishing in the corner which was converted to make the score 14-7.
With the Gaijin gaining ascendancy it was time for something special. The momentum changer came after a kick up field by Matt Beasley was fielded by the Gaijin outside backs who sensed a counter opportunity. But Matt said NO and a very well executed intercept on the halfway resulted in a spectacular individual try under the sticks making the score 14-14.
The Gaijin again had an answer and after being awarded another penalty they kicked for the corner and scored off the ensuing lineout. The Gaijin goal kicker on song again to make it Gaijin 21 – Cru 14.
A strength of the Cru this season has been the impact of the bench and it was time for that to continue. This was epitomised by the effervescent Leon having a storming run after some nice close quarter passing to gain some much needed territory and put the tired Gaijin on notice.
The territory paid dividends with the Cru winning a scrum deep into the Gaijin half. The subsequent phase play lead to a big overlap being capitalised on by a bewitching cross kick by Matt Beasley over the defenders outstretched arms landing in the hands of our substitute midfielder Geo who had an easy 6m canter over the line and to bring the Crusaders back into the match. Unfortunately we missed the conversion but the Cru were coming.
Gaijin 21- Cru 19.
After another foray into our half by the Gaijin looking to make it a two score lead we got back into their half, had a strong lineout drive which led to, Mr Beasley selling the opposition a nice dummy and then strolling in from 20 out to put the Cru in the lead for first time in the match with about 5 minutes to play. Conversion slotted by Hymei.
Cru 26- Gaijin 21.
Immediately from the kick off, a try for the ages, Paddy with some footwork, inside pass to Reece, footwork, inside pass to Rob, footwork, outside pass to Luke who put the afterburners on from 45m out to gas the desperate cover defence and put the game beyond doubt to the ecstatic Crusaders supporters and teammates. Kick good, Cru 33 – Gaijin 21.
All in all an enthralling game with a wonderful last spell to take the lead for the first time and then secure the win.
Well played to the Tokyo Gaijin who held the lead for most of the match. The Crusaders should be proud to keep close throughout, then taking a couple of nice tries at the end to secure the win.
Crusader 33 (Tries ; Sumner D. , Beasley M. 2, Leow G., Mathers L.- Conversions; DeAnders J. 4/5)
Gaijin 21 (Tries ; 3 – Conversions 3/3)
Matt Beasley 5
Robert Costelloe 4
Jamie DeAnders 3
Luke Mathers 2
Arsenio Spann 1
Tokyo Gaijin MVP (as voted by Crusaders)
Crusaders MVP (as voted by Tokyo Gaijin)