by Travis DixonOur first Shuto League match of the season against the Tokyo Gaijin RFC was always going to be a doozy. Unfortunately our preparations were a little disrupted with an important practice game the week before being called off due to a typhoon. Nevertheless, the Crusaders fielded a very strong side for their first challenge in Division One.
Despite the small field, the tempo was rapid from the get go and it was evident that yet again fitness may prove to be an Achilles heel of the Cru. True to last season’s form as well, our poor work and technique at the break-down was exposed throughout the game. We conceded numerous turnovers and had the ball stripped from us at vital times. The Gaijin utilized the wind they had at their backs and scored three unanswered tries in the first 30 minutes of the match.
Without much possession, the Cru were forced to make tackle after tackle and luckily we were up to the task. Our tackling has always been a strength, especially when we have guys run straight at us! The frustration the team was feeling in the first half was probably best personified by Evan ‘Anger Management’ Hitchman’s spat with the opposing centre. While some may remonstrate against his gratuitous use of foul language and loud cries of “smash that c#*t….” You have got to admire the bravery of a man reverse-bicycle kicking at four opposition members while lying on his back. Luckily Sean Gibson was there by his side quicker than if Evan’s aggressors were pretty, 21 year old bar-broads.
The backs looked impressive when we were able to spin the ball wide and get on the outside of our opponents. This was highlighted by an impressive try from a mid-field move between Taku and Andy. It was Andy’s first game for the Cru and he made the adjustment from his more familiar rugby league with apparent ease.
With the wind at our backs in the second half, the Cru were more competitive and managed to control the tempo of the game. We kept the Gaijin scoreless and forced them to resort to taking 3 points when they were on offer. Unfortunately we were also unable to string enough phases together to mount any sort of attack on the opposition’s try line.
Crusaders debutants for the match were Masaya, Paul R, Andy D, and Hiro. These guys played vital roles and we hope they’re be a part of the Crusader’s regular squad. It was good to see the likes of Louis, Brendan B and Ryuji, who we hope will be able to make it to more games, especially our highly competitive Shuto League matches.
Despite the on-field disappointment, we once again had a blast at the Bel Ami Izakaya after the match and drank a team record setting (on last year’s effort) 98 beers drunk and some horrendous karaoke being sung. It was good to see a few supporters also make it out to the izakaya afterwards.
Games between Cru and the Gaijin are few and far between, but it’s apparent that this is well-spirited rivalry will continue on in future seasons. Let’s hope we can get some more practice matches against them as well, as we now have a target for the level at which we need to be competitive. With some improved work at the breakdowns and better fitness, we will be able to beat teams like the Gaijin.
1. Travis Dixon
2. Taku Hayashi
3. Roy Yorke