Rain? What rain?

When the heavy rains descended upon Grand Cayman it seemed like the 2006 edition of the Deloitte Cayman Sevens Rugby Tournament was surely doomed. Two things saved it, however. First, rugby is one of the world’s tougher sports and tiny drops of water don’t strike much fear into the hearts of men who play it. Second, the quality of the teams assembled was so high that they would have produced an exciting and entertaining tournament under any conditions.

The first round of matches on Friday nearly qualified as a watersport as teams sloshed about in the rain and mud at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex. Still, two favored Fijian sides managed to float to the top of their respective pools, setting up the prospects for a big showdown Saturday night.

Last year’s Fijian winners, a club named Red Rock, played under the Samurai banner this year. They ran around, over and through the competition leading up to the final, looking very much like winners again. This time, however, they also had to get by the Fiji Barbarians, a talent-laden select team from the rugby-loving nation.

Their clash in the final was a ferocious finale to the tournament as 14 of the world’s best sevens players collided in pursuit of bragging rights back home and the US$20,000 winner’s prize. Samurai came out fast and furious at the start, scoring the final’s first try in the first minute. But the Barbarians quickly found their rhythm and produced a scoring spree that clinched the 2006 Deloitte Cayman Sevens crown. The final score was 23-5.

Immediately after the match, players from both teams embraced to pray and sing Christian songs in the middle of the field.

Cayman Rugby Union President Derek Haines had plenty to smile about Saturday night as his Cable and Wireless President’s Seven side captured the plate final. Up against the tough Spanish Viators, Haines’s select team delivered a thrilling 33-12 victory.

Although the rains cut attendance numbers compared with previous years, those who did attend certainly appeared to have a fun evening. Whether it was dancing to Village People tunes in the stands or cheering on another lightning-quick try, they appeared to be pleased.

Members of the Cayman Rugby Academy, a program designed to develop Cayman’s best juniors, played an exhibition match Saturday. Their impressive play indicates a bright future for the sport here.

Edward Westin, 15, and Jake Kelly, 16, are Academy players who appreciate the Deloitte Cayman Sevens’ annual display of worldclass action. Both believe the tournament provides a significant boost for the sport in Cayman.

‘It also makes me sort of wish I was Fijian,’ joked Kelly.

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