A road 48 years traveled, Cayman Rugby’s National Men’s 15s etched their names in local sports history Saturday (9 February) at the 2019 Americas Regional Playoff.
As the final whistle sounded, Cayman saluted the near thousand in attendance at the South Sound Rugby Club. Battered, but not at all bruised. The scoreboard was overwhelming: Cayman 58, Guyana 14.
Since the Cayman Rugby Football Union (CRFU) was founded in 1971, no national 15s squad had ever advanced outside the regional qualification rounds. With 13 of 23 returners from the team who edged Bermuda, Cayman proved to have the right mix of skill and experience on the day. They would not be denied.
In the weeks leading up to the ‘Big Game’, Cayman seemed to carry themselves with a laser focus, and an attention to detail. They preached a commitment to structure over a Guyanese squad known for success in the sevens format, and an abundance of athleticism. It worked to perfection.
“If we stuck to our structure, we knew we’d come out on top,” said Head Coach Garry Southway. “We knew we’d dominate the set pieces and we had a great start. Sometimes in rugby, it’s all about momentum. We didn’t let them into the game.”
It was a relentless offensive performance that included nine Cayman trys in total.
In the first half, Dave Stringer intercepted a sloppy Guyana line-out to put the home side on the board first. Moments later, a brilliant Morgan Hayward miss-pass found a streaking Michael Wilson to extend the lead. Later in the first, Captain Killian Everard pounced on another errand Guyana pass for a third try. Prior to half, a Paul Westin dummy pass opened a small seam in the Guyanese midfield defense, and the flanker exploded down the field to give Cayman’s it’s fourth try before half. Leading 29-0 at the break, Everard said the game was all but over.
“I think at about the 60-minute mark, when we put a few nice trys together, they were dropping a little bit, said Everard. “I was trying to keep the guys focused, but I had a little smile at my face at that point because I knew we had done it.”
In the second half, the onslaught continued with a Cayman penalty try. A bruising run from Justin Wight for a try came soon after. Additional offense from Barry-John Goude and Shane Westin followed. Vice Captain Hayward provided a solid performance in the kicking game with four conversions and a penalty on the day.
It was a turbulent road to a historic victory. The one that almost got away versus Bermuda. The one that never was versus Trinidad & Tobago. The late change in venue, and the subsequent roster shuffle. In the end, Cayman’s National Men’s 15s took control of their destiny; for themselves, and for the ones who paved the way.
“It means everything,” said Caymanian Justin Wight. “It’s about our crescent. The blood, sweat and tears. This is what we play for, our Cayman Islands.”
Cayman will now join Colombia, Paraguay and rival Mexico for just the second Tier II Americas Rugby Challenge in August 2019. Dates and location have yet to be determined.