Saturday, February 3, 2007

Local rugby players set for annual memorial game

Rich Freeman / Daily Yomiuri Sportswriter

As coach of the Top League's newest team, Mitsubishi Juko, Scott Pierce is not going to get too many more opportunities to play himself.

So the chance to turn out for the Yokohama Country & Athletic Club against the Tokyo Crusaders on Saturday was one he was not going to turn down.

Even if it did mean earning the wrath of his wife, who wants the former All Blacks trialist and Japan sevens player to return home to New Zealand after a long season.

But hopefully Mrs. Pierce will understand given the circumstances.

The 41-year-old center is the biggest name taking part in the MacFadyen Cup, played in memory of Gareth MacFadyen, who played for both the YC&AC and the Crusaders from 1996-2000.

MacFadyen was tragically killed in December 2000, after a prank at a Christmas party in Auckland went horribly wrong and the grass skirt he was wearing was engulfed in flames. Since then the two teams have played every year in his honor.

MacFadyen's parents Ian and Sue are being flown to Japan by Air New Zealand and will present the winning captain with the cup, which was designed in Brisbane, Australia, and made in Christchurch, New Zealand.

"It's great to see Air New Zealand, which has a long history as a sponsor of international and provincial rugby in New Zealand, support such a significant club event in Japan," said Simon Ryan, president of the YC&AC rugby club.

Both teams have won the trophy three times and this year's edition was designated a two-legged affair.

The Cru' are the current holders but they go into Saturday's game at the YC&AC having to make up a three-point deficit, after losing November's first leg 22-19.

In the past top referees from New Zealand have been flown out to officiate and there were hopes that Paddy O'Brien would be in charge of this year's game.

However,the Kiwi's role as the International Rugby Board's referees' manager has prevented him from making the trip.

Ryota Yashima, a Japanese referee with experience of handling games in the Sydney club competition, will blow the whistle instead on what is always a hard-fought encounter.

The 2nd XV game gets underway at 2.00 p.m. at the YC&AC ground in Yamate, with the 1st XV match kicking off at 3.15 p.m.

(Feb. 2, 2007)

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