by Reece Morgan Last year’s Hallowe’en weekend was a monumental time for the Crusaders. After kicking off with a match against the Okinawa Beach Boys, everyone smashed Roppongi and consoled laughed at Ev while Australia lost the World Cup Final. 2016 couldn’t have been a more different affair, with the squad tucked up in bed nice and early in preparation for one of the season’s biggest games. Owen put down his nail varnish; Frank opted for just one bottle of wine; even our most formidable sex pest briefly broke off his search for a midget bar. In the morning, a massive black-and-blue contingent took over the information booth at Omiya station – we even had subs for the backs! – and the boys made their way over to the ground. Both teams soon took to the field – the Cru, raring to undo eight years of losses, and the Gaijin, keen to bring their own brand of physicality back to the pitch. Kick-off started in predictable fashion, with a few quick runs leading to a scrum. The Cru pack, featuring some serious mass, held strong and set the unusually rapid (Sparrow excepted) back-line up for some punching runs. Battling their way up the pitch, the Cru spent ten minutes protecting their own ball beautifully, before setting Joe up for a smash through the centre to score the first converted try. The Gaijin turned the heat up – particularly the linesman, whom the ref threatened to walk if he didn’t stop his back-chat – and their pack assailed the Cru defence. A quick turnover flipped the game’s fortunes, and after some work up the pitch, corduroy-wearing juggernaut Matt Foster flopped over the line for another Cru try. With Dylan’s legs cramping and no Olivers player on hand to massage him, the Cru made some quick switches and brought Lawrence in from the wing. Leading with gusto, he offered a beautiful chip-and-chase kick: it would have been even more spectacular had it not smashed Frank in the face, leaving him wobbling like Building 7 before the thermite kicked in (it has been claimed). The Gaijin weren’t happy to be down, and quickly responded from a kick-off fumble by scoring and converting one of their own. Luckily, egghead Tomo went from zero to hero, daring to pick-and-go by himself and supplying Cocks with some try time. After a quick conversion from Taku, the half-time whistle blew, leaving the score at 19-7 for the Crusaders. At half-time, some replacements were made – new boy Keita strolled onto the pitch, his terrible moustache predicting what many Crusaders would offer for Movember. Instantly at home in the Cru badge, he blazed straight through the opposition, leaving the bewildered full-back in the dust to score the first of his monstrous hat-trick. After the forwards punched some holes into the Gaijin defence, the homing Sparrow himself rolled over the line before converting it himself, a performance of such decadent show-boating that he earned himself a punishment pint. The Gaijin responded quickly, with big boy Bati stealing a loose ball to earn another try for the opposition. After a brief half-time rest to moan about his ankle, Reece and Foster again swapped front row duties and the restored pack made an instant impact, smashing the scrum and setting up Keita for another spectacular charge into the sunset. At this point, both sides were getting tired: the Crusader back-line was still full of fire, but the forwards were flagging, and vice-versa for the Gaijin. Indeed, the Gaijin hooker managed to pull off a try of his own and they were on the verge of scoring again. This potential loss of pride rallied the tired Cru defence, and some big hits later led to a turnover. The ball found its way to Keita, whose final try and the conversion by Neil closed the game out at 43-21 in favour of the Cru. With eight years of losses brought to a close, the boys went for some quiet jars of Ribena at the local chippy, quickly causing an evacuation of the bar with a rousing chorus of the Crusaders chant…or was it Chicago Department Store? The Gaijin MVP was ball-swindler Bati; the Cru MVP was some tall ginger lad we don’t know and probably won’t see again. MVP points were: 5 – Keita; 4 – Joe; 3 – Cocks/Dylan; 2 – Sparrow/Rob/Tomo; 1 – Reece//Tavis/the mystery man 14876428_1480789888616279_5253590233983372129_o 14882304_1480790741949527_1178464142599381122_o 14915362_1481359711892630_2687904237056159255_n

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