By Reece Morgan,
Rugby union means many things to many people: an excuse for rough-housing; a way to
vent the week’s frustrations, or simply a reason to get on the beers. It can even be intensely
frustrating, such as when the 9 o’clock kick-off is in the middle of Chiba, or when Manager
Gibbo has a very public breakdown on LINE. It can be easy for us to forget that rugby is, at
the end of all discussion, about the fifteen men on the pitch and the bond between them —
along with the fifteen men against them, friends at the final whistle. After the tragedy of his
untimely death, the Gareth MacFadyen cup was forged both as a reminder of that tenet, and
also the legacy of the man himself. Whether wearing the dark blue of the YCAC or the sky
blue of the Crusaders, Gareth loved rugby, and was a brother-in-arms to all who donned
their boots each Sunday.
Late November brought with it a brisk, bright morning, fit for such a memorial clash. Clad in
their Butlins blazers, the Cru boasted a strong but mobile pack and (ever the rarity) a
back-line marked by speed and finesse. Plenty of discussion was required to get the final
arrangement established, but soon the Cru were set for war, knowing that the YCAC would
be no pushover. Would the traditional ringers make an appearance? How many of their
long-time rivals, the Tokyo Gaijin, would appear in the YCAC ranks after their support earlier
in the season? Would Simon Newby do his ankle again? Nevertheless, confident in their
gameplay, the Cru made their way to the YCAC clubhouse.
After the brief blip of realising that the kit was unwashed — thankfully resolved before
kick-off — the Cru quickly set about their warm-up, noting the imposing size and unfamiliar
faces of many opposition players. Word quickly got round that the YCAC had found support
by calling in the Royal Navy’s HMS Tamar, but the boys kept cool heads. Spotting the shaky
lineouts and length of time spent practising scrums, the Cru forwards began formulating their
plan, knowing exactly what they wanted to do from the outset. Soon, with both sides
opposite one another, Gareth’s jerseys between them, all present maintained silence for
their fallen friend. Then, the whistle, and with it, kick-off.
As soon as the ball sailed over to the YCAC half, the Crusaders were on the attack. Knowing
that this would be his final outing with the badge, number eight Nico smashed into the fray
and forced an early error, with advantage quickly being gained. A veritable tide of sky-blue
shirts, all in perfect three-man formations, battered at the YCAC line and inched up the field.
It was a mere four minutes before Nico slipped past the fullback for the first try of the day.
Energised by the early performance, big lad Frank easily secured the restart and began a
chain charge — quick offloads to Rob, then Ted, each making their way further up the pitch,
until an unfortunate knock-on led to the first scrum of the game. Remembering what they’d
seen in the first half, props Shota and Alex bent their opposition in half, with Captain Morgan
sneaking the hook against the head…not that there was any need, as the giant pack
steamrolled the YCAC boys in a pattern that would be seen all game long.
With Matt Beasley governing the breakdown with ease, the backs were able to really get
their teeth into the game. Keen to make up for months of injury time, VC Dom tore down the
wing and scored the second try; Sohei slotted the conversation, following it up with another
try of his own. Replacing an injured Nico, Leon immediately added to the good vibes with an
Arn Anderson-esque spinebusting hit, undoing any advantage from a previous penalty
against the Cru. With Tami doing his usual work and Brett crashing through for another try,
the Cru were looking strong — and yet, tempers were starting to flare, and a number of penalties pushed the lads back to their gameline. With the captain’s call to keep them shut
out, the whole squad came together and dug in, fighting the final few minutes until the
whistle. At the end of the first half, it was 22-0 to the Crusaders, with YCAC captain (and
Crusader!) Tristan looking stressed and surprised.
The second half saw a few changes to the Cru machine. Geo took to the 9 spot, immediately
showcasing a hard-running scrum-half style; Nico returned to the eight spot; Tom Lister and
his colossal quads moved out to the centres, and Alex returned to loosehead. Similarly, the
YCAC had clearly worked themselves into a frenzy over the break, immediately coming back
with storming runs that saw the Cru hard-pressed to keep them out. Making an unfortunate
tip-tackle, Ted found himself with a yellow card, the Cru scrum rotating to match; their power
remained too much for the YCAC, and even where balls weren’t taken against the head,
openside Sam Catling frustrated any attempt by the opposition 10 to keep the ball mobile.
One such scrum gave the Crusaders the opening they needed for Dom Sumner to charge
into the sunset, scoring another try despite the one-man difference.
From here, the game was one of driving YCAC attacks, and increasingly desperate
Crusader defence. Tom Lister dealt devastating hits by the number in the centres, with the
Cru forwards (almost all of whom had some loose forward experience) stealing the ball as it
fell. Nico, in a typically Gallic rage, received a yellow for chatting back to the referee,
meaning that the Crusaders were now down to 13 men…but then, rising like his hairline to
the challenge, Rob Costelloe romped his way through tackle after tackle to net another try
for the Cru. The ball was received from kick-off; the knock-on acknowledged; Tristan’s pleas
to go uncontested ignored; the scrum dominated, and a Matt Beasley special scored within
three minutes. The YCAC mettle had failed, and with President Sparrow joining the flank on
Ted’s behalf, the Cru stood on the cusp of making history with back-to-back victories and a
The final few minutes saw the crowd holding their breath in anticipation, as the bench
emptied and the Cru continued to drive hard. Foul-mouthed Rob was quickly silenced by the
opposition judo champion (‘oh, sorry old chap’) in a minor scuffle, only to then steal the ball
straight from his opponent’s hands, delivering it to Sohei for the final try of the day. Tom
slotted the conversation, and the final minute played out in relative quiet. Out rang the
whistle, and the game was over.
It would be nice to end this report simply on the victory, but that would fail the essential
dignity of the day. Both teams had played their hearts out in a solid display of gamesmanship
and love for the game, matched only by the camaraderie of the post-match drinks. Spirits
were high, and the celebrations carried on long into the night, marked by ice-cream danger
chops and plenty of beer. Running riot in the Hard Rock Cafe, Reece raised the GM Cup on
high once again, and the Cru gave a shout of joy for the day, for the game, and for Gareth
MacFadyen — whom we can imagine smiling down. As ever, the Cru would like to thank all
their supporters, as well as the All France boys who came to lend a hand.
321s were as follows:
5 – Rob Costelloe
4 – Tom Lister/Dom Sumner
3 – Matt Beasley
2 – Ted Maanicus
1 – Nico Maurin