By Neil Howard Walking from the station to the ground for our 3rd Shuto League game, you instantly knew it was going to be a windy day on the riverside pitch. Although, for one poor soul, it wasn’t just the elements that were a bit windy…Crusaders Stalwart, Matt Sparrow, had clearly eaten the three week old sushi from the fridge as part of a health cleanse, and proceeded to spend the whole warm-up running to and from the port-a-loo to ‘open his gate’… With the extensive warm-up concluded, which was spent mostly trying to work out which way the wind was blowing, it was time for KO, and what a KO it turned out to be! Yours truly, kicking high and with the wind holding the ball up in the air, dropped it perfectly into the rampaging Alex Howard’s hands to be gathered uncontested (maybe Sparrow had left a present in the area)! Alex tumbled on at full pelt when the Olivers boys finally switched on, remembering they needed to tackle the big lad, which, after a couple of attempts, they finally did – but Alex showed the kind of hands Sonny Bill would have been proud of and shipped a little pop to Seba who touched down from 10 yards. Conversion unsuccessful, but Crusaders were off to a flying start. Less than 10 mins later and the boys in blue scored again – Tomo showing his usual tenacity and trickery from behind the scrum, to dot down close enough to the posts that I simply couldn’t miss! With the half coming to an end, and Alex Howard having berated half the team for their inability to read the wind and bounce, there was still time to see one more try. Akihito was rewarded for a great first half, barreling over in the corner. 17-0 at half time and the Crusaders were very happy with their efforts, so much so that even Sparrow managed to go the whole half-time talk with sh****** himself! The second half can only be described as a demolition job of Olivers RFC: in particular, by Sparrow, running the show from his favoured number 10 spot with some very hard lines and keeping the defence well-marshalled. I’m sorry that I’ve neglected to regale each one in detail, but there were 10 tries in all, with 7 successful conversions, though I have Andy Howard’s beer consumption and flag to thank for one or two of those ‘successful’ ones! The only blight on the performance being that we couldn’t hold them to nil, with a couple of sloppy moments to let Olivers slide in for two tries. Final score: 67-14! Thankfully Tooley was on hand to do his usual, fantastic job of translating whatever nonsense Cocksy was spouting otherwise the opposition would still be trying to decipher Gen! MVP’s of the day were the opposition No.12 Mr. Keishi ‘Big Lad’ Takebuchi, with Olivers quite rightly voting for Rockin’ Rob Galbraith! However, there has to be a few special mentions starting with Seba scoring a fine hat-trick of tries and looking particularly smug with himself. Matt “Imodium” Sparrow for a great game at 10 AND scoring his first ‘proper’ try for the Crusaders, and finally Yasuhiro for making a well-earned day-boo! The day wasn’t without incident, however, with Taichi injuring his hamstring and Rob suffering the worst dislocated finger I’ve ever seen! Wishing both boys a very speedy recovery. All that was left was for the boys to head to the Bel Ami Izakaya with an impressive 18 turning out including a couple of WAGS courtesy of Yusei “It Best” Shimoda, not before Tooley had very kindly rung Tokyo Gas to get me switched back on for the huge bill of JPY1,100!! After a few cold ones the boys voted and the 3, 2, 1’s were as follows – 5 points – Rob Galbraith, 4 points – Sebastian Forastiere, 3 points – Matt Sparrow, 2 points – Tom Cocks, 1 point – Tomo. A great day and performance, particularly in tough elements, and it sets us up nicely for the season ahead!