YCAC v TKY Cru, Koyama the 19th of Nov

In the worst weather for a rugby match held at YCAC in living memory, YCAC retained the Gareth MacFadyen Cup (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_GM_Cup) to extend its winning streak over the Crusaders to four years. The GM Cup has long been the pinnacle of the rugby year for both teams but given YCAC’s heavy diet of Kanto League games the sole emphasis on this game has diminished in recent years for YCAC. This was illustrated early in the first half with the Cru fired up from kick-off and YCAC struggling to name a starting XV only minutes before.

YCAC had a howling wind at their backs in the first half but largely failed to use it. Instead YCAC’s fly-half Kane “the Weasel” implemented a similar strategy that he’d found useful on his recent holiday to Phuket: throwing his balls in any hole that looked open. The only difference at YCAC was that no one was there to catch his balls but the result was the same with Kane having to stand-in-line and wait for his medicine. This time he was waiting under the posts after a Cru try rather than at a back-street clinic but the conditions were nonetheless as grim.

While Kane’s mind stayed on holiday, YCAC’s forwards galvanized into a storming unit at the set pieces and had the Cru backpeddling at scrumtime. On more than one occasion the YCAC forward back destroyed the Cru’s scrum which was even more remarkable when looking at the man-mountains at the Cru had in their forward pack. Unfortunately for the Cru those forwards were also mountains in the lineout and remained firmly attached to the ground. This enabled Joe “Float like a butterfly” Fisher to steal the opposition throw almost at-will.

Except for the set pieces, the first half dragged on with little shape from YCAC but credit must be given to some determined Cru defence. The Cru were thriving on the looseness of the game in general play and pressured YCAC into a number of mistakes and penalties. However, the Cru’s reluctance to scrum or kick the ball into touch meant that they had little option but to run the ball; a grueling ask into the wind and with Mike “not long until I have enough scars to look like Deano” Griffin constantly looking for his next hit.

Up 12-5 at halftime and turning into a wind that only seemed to get stronger, YCAC knew that the second half would be tough. Fortunately for YCAC, the forwards embraced the challenge and used the tactic of pick-and-go’s and one-off runners in broken play. This strategy starved the Cru of ball and worked superbly. The scrum continued its dominance and three tries were acquired by YCAC’s No 8, Joe “Sting like a bee” Fisher, through pushovers. The Cru consequently embarked on some devious gamesmanship and declared that the scrums had to be uncontested due to an injury to a prop. However, the only ‘injury’ to the prop, a former British judo champion in his first game of rugby, seemed to be to his ego but this didn’t prevent him from remaining on the field and playing by his own set of rules at each ruck and maul.

With the time counting down on the clock and YCAC up 22-5, the Cru scored a well-taken try after a sustained build-up. For those players on the field who had experienced the 2007 match where the Cru scored 19 unanswered points in the final 15 minutes to snatch victory, the feeling after the Cru’s try was either fear for a YCAC player or excitement for a Cru player. Thankfully for YCAC, the team did not panic and a final try to Griffo sealed the win.

The end result of the bruising encounter was a 27-12 win to YCAC. The celebrations of securing the GM Cup went well into the night which gave full respect to the significance of the game and also showed that the importance of victory is still as strong as ever.

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