By Reece Morgan Last Sunday saw the Tokyo Crusaders, still glowing from their triumph the previous week, aiming to chalk another ‘win’ on the board against the boys from Dasewa RFC, noted for their physicality and tight playing style. Nor did the game disappoint: victory never seemed certain for either side, and both teams’ physicality and aggression were neatly reflected in the final 31-31 scoreline. Upon arrival at Araka Undo Koen ground on that fine October morning, the Cru were somewhat at a loss: memories of Shinjuku Jack’s facilities quickly faded on seeing the pitch, a hybrid swamp and mountain range, and realising that the nearest tap was ten minutes away. Worse still, the team lacked a scrum-half, though heavy guilt-tripping and begging saw Cru stalwart Koki take up the mantle. The return of absentee captain Tom Cocks lifted everyone’s spirits, and soon both sides eagerly took to the field. The Cru machine roared into life straight from the kick-off. Inching up the field with a series of pick-and-goes, the forwards made enough space for Lucas – with his usual blistering pace – to breach the defensive line, and score within two minutes of play. Dasewa, bemused by the sudden shift, came out fighting with the swift counter-rucks and wide movements that would typify their gameplay for the day. Still, the Cru defence held fast – new boy Yuji, at 15, showed great promise with his deep kicking game, giving the forwards ample practice for their unorthodox ‘dwarf-tossing’ lineout. The mauls rolled on and the pods held together, and 8-man Van soon thundered over the line for a second Cru try. At this point, fortunes started to shift, as Dasewa’s counter-rucks stole more and more ball, and the speed at which they played out wide started to wear down the defence. They were rewarded for their tenacity with a try of their own, and soon tallied a second thanks to their work around the fringes. In true Cru style, the boys in blue responded with strong runs from Andrew Coday and fresh-faced winger Ryan, making repeated forays into the opposition half. Takahashi, replacing an injured Lucas, showed great prowess in the centre position, too. Another new addition, Masa carried the ball over the line, but Dasewa soon responded in kind, and later capitalised with a penalty to take the lead, although neither side demonstrated real dominance at the turn of the half. The second half brought some fresh legs to the pitch: Van was dragged kicking and screaming back to the centres, as Kenji filled out the pack; Yusei ‘Shrek’ Shimoda joined the front row; new boy Takuto stepped in as blindside; even a brutally hungover Matt Sparrow made an appearance, playing a thoroughly adequate five minutes before the previous night’s drinks revisited. Manager Travis, relieving an exhausted Koki, put an early try on the scorecard – converted by Yuji, who made his move to 10 – but an impressive rolling maul from Dasewa scored in retaliation. As discipline started to wane, and more runners became isolated, the match become a war of attrition with the Cru in need of a try to draw level. Luckily, Tooley was on hand to fire up the team with motivating, if impenetrable, words of wisdom. A number of powerful crash balls later, flanker Yusuke sprinted through the defence and over the line, before collapsing of exhaustion. The remaining minutes ticked by without a great deal of fuss, and the match ended with a 31-31 draw. Although they have a lot to take from the game, the Cru will be looking to work on counter-rucking and fringe defence, the two attributes exploited so incisively by Dasewa, to perfect their style in the future. The Dasewa MVP was Kohei Doi/Poi, who managed the game expertly from the 10 spot; his Cru counterpart was Van, demonstrating his half-man, half-train prowess both in the forwards and the backs. The day’s true MVP was the Ichigen Izakaya, which not only provided both the necessary chips and mayonnaise to twelve of the Cru’s finest (and two lovely young ladies; credit to Yusei) but also allowed our Tabasco-infused shenanigans to pass without comment. MVP Points were as follows: 5 – Van; 4 – Yuji; 3 – Tom Cocks; 2 – Andrew; 1 – Koki.