By Alex Boyle,
A beautiful Autumn day manifested itself for the Crusaders 4th outing against the Zenkai
Beers in the 2022/2023 Shuto League. A still clear day with a high of 25 degrees, just hot
enough for some slow beads of sweat to occur in the darkest of crevasses. The pre-match
was one of mixed intensity. From Reeces’ case of flatulence upwind of the unlucky Shota
who was giving the people what they wanted with some striperesque stretching, to “Victory”
being declared prematurely, something which can unfortunately happen unexpectedly, due
to Zenkai not having enough players.
The feeling within the team of a job well done, a victory secured (albeit by default), changed
only a few minutes before kick-off when it was announced that Zenkai did in fact have a
playing 15 and competition points were once again up for grabs, the battle to avoid
relegation was in fact about to begin.
The game started with the backs and forwards working nicely together. Forward pods
operating well with strong runs from the likely suspects, Leon, Taichi, Nico and Shota. This
dominance led to No.9, Matt Beasley opening the scoring around the 10 minute mark, with a
nice individual try. Very soon after the restart, Shoehei was next to dot over breaking a few
tackles then finishing with a very nice run to the corner, pushed all the way by some spirited
Zenkai cover defence pushing him all the way and making the put down rather difficult.
The game was following the pattern of the previous few games with the Crusaders building a
nice lead. After some nice coherent phase play by the inside backs and forwards, Nico had a
great run in the centre of the field breaking a couple of tackles before selling a beautiful
dummy then offloading to the workhorse marathon runner Sam Cummings to score with
Sohei converting to take the score to 19-0 after 20 minutes of play.
After a couple of penalty offences by Zenkai allowed the Crusaders kicked to touch to gain
some territory. After a couple of nice lineout drives creating sustained pressure the
Crusaders were awarded another penalty about 10 metres out. The Fijian wrecking ball,
Tamiana called for Beasley to take a quick tap and a nice pass allowed Tamiana to steam
roll several unlucky defenders and crash over comfortably near the post for Sohei to once
again convert and take the lead out to 26-0.
That wasn’t all for the half with similar play in the lead-up by the forwards creating a solid
platform for a barnstorming run by Reece to cross the line and with nice awareness and
being the good captain he is, ran the ball closer to the sticks. Unfortunately not close
enough, and an uncharacteristic miss meant the Crusaders headed into half time a
comfortable 31-0 up.
The second half did not begin well and unfortunately Simon on the wing after some good
offensive and defensive work tweaked his knee and was the first substitution with super sub Nestor making his way on the park for a stint on the wing. The Zenkai team then responded
with a long range try putting the onus back on the Crusaders to get back the dominance
shown in the first half.
Some frustrating periods of play ensued for an extended period of the second half with the
Crusaders giving away several penalties to help Zenkai get back in the game having good
territory and holding the ball for prolonged periods. Many crusaders stepped defensive
during the Zenkai rallies through the middle parts of the second half. Defensively, Graham
and Dominic combined nicely to clear a threatening kick chase by Zenkai.
Zenkai then tried challenging up the middle with some 10 man rugby and one off runners.
This was the start of the tide turning back in the Crusaders favour with some big hits by Big
Brett Reid trying to recover some respectability, after turning up in a pair of yellow Fluro
Crocs, which he certainly did.. The forwards also showed some strong defence to dampen
down the Zenkai Beers enthusiasm.
The strong defence in our quarter led to a couple of penalties in our favour allowed us to get
some territory for what would be the start of solid finish by the Crusaders. Leon helped to
establish control again with a couple of runs, one of which was a clean break 30+ metre run.
Not long after Ted Maanicus put the icing on the cake of another standout performance in
the second row with a superb long distance try down the sideline beating the fullback with
pace and strength to run 50 metres to score. For his efforts he got hooked for Gibbo to come
on with a couple to play and continue adding Cru caps to his illustrious record.
Overall the final score came in at 38-5. It was a fantastic first half which may have caused
some complacency in the second but that was countered with good spirit to keep them to
only one try and to come back with a strong finish.
Score 38-5 (Tries: Beasley, Okamoto, Catlin,,Konrote, Morgan, Maanicus; Conversions: