By Connor Bottrell,
Tokyo Cup Round 3! After a confident victory in Round 1 and humbling defeat in Round 2, the Crusaders were set to face Waseda GWRC in the 3rd place fixture of the Tokyo Cup at Sankei Misato Ground. The boys knew they’d have to dig deep in this match-up. With thirteen forwards and three backs on the roster, many rose to the occasion for some out-of-position experience. And a sparse bench of one would mean 80 minutes for everyone on hand.
In the first 20 minutes, the Crusaders were an even match for Waseda. Front rows Rintaro Fujino, Sakai Taichi and Shota Honjo led domination of the scrums and around the breakdown. Big Frank Saffery, who would later face his wife’s wrath for missing an apartment viewing to play with the boys, put in a massive performance: battering through defense and putting a swift stop to opposition momentum on several occasions.
Unfortunately for the good guys, the war of attrition did not last. Waseda dotted 3 unanswered tries in close succession and the Crusaders team of forwards struggled to respond. However, just before half-time a lineout opportunity in the opposition 22 started rolling maul that would bring the boys just 5 meters from the in-goal. Some hard yards and a pirouette finale by the classically-trained Nico Maurin put the first points on the board for the Cru – giving the boys some spirit for the second half. Flyhalf Matt Sparrow, who had just been Charley Horsed moments earlier, was unable to convert.
However, Waseda were not deterred by the temporary loss of momentum from the end of the first half and exploited the good guys’ advancing fatigue and lack of depth on the bench. Back-line natives Tomo Arakawa and Taro Hasumi exemplified resilience to the pressure from deep kick-and-chase play from Waseda – which became the main tactic of the opposition in the face of still-spirited defensive play. Loose forward combo Captain Reese Morgan, Dom Sumner (playing in the backline), and No8 Paddy Symonds put bodies to dirt time after time in phase play. Arsenio Spann bowled through defense on attack. But despite these efforts upfront, Waseda put in 5 unanswered tries in the second half through some intelligent play that exploited Cru weaknesses. Confusingly, the opposition would use their final penalty opportunity to secure a kick at goal. Tokyo Cup trend?
Final score 45-5. Hard day at the office for the boys in attendance and for the spectators. Credit to Waseda, they were well-drilled, physical, and athletic. Cru MVP Rintaro Fujino showed consistently exceptional strength of body and mind throughout the match; outstanding performance in both set pieces and open play. The boys look forward to future fixtures beyond Tokyo Cup. Send backs plz.