Cayman Islands warmed up for next week’s Caribbean rugby championships here with a gripping match against South African Barbarians on Saturday.
The match at South Sound was a pulsating affair from start to finish with a dramatic ending.
Cayman was missing eight members due to injury, vacation or work commitments and the very strong Barbarian team was expected to storm to victory. It was a surprise for many then when having withstood an early onslaught from the Barbarians, Cayman came back and dominated the majority of the first half with Richard Tressider kicking three penalty goals to take a nine point lead. Cayman scrum half Sam Page also had a good game with some astute kicking.
Barbarians counter attacked impressively ending with Jaques Du Pree scoring a penalty kick of his own to bring the half time score to 9-3 in Cayman’s favour.
During the break Cayman made several changes as all of the squad members got a run out and the Barbarians brought on the mercurial Chris Bunce.
Cayman continued to dominate early in the second half and after a series of attacks Stephen Hannon crossed for a try from a penalty giving them a 14-3 lead.
Mick Kehoe converted and the game was looking safe at 16-3.
Almost immediately the Barbarians showed that they had plenty left and slowly and methodically worked their way down the pitch into the Cayman corner.
Only a last ditch tackle from full back Martin Livingston stopped a sure try and gave Cayman a five metre line out. The Barbarians stole the ball and Jan Louw scored on the blind side.
Du Pree scored the conversion and suddenly the Barbarians were only six points behind. The next 20 minutes turned into a battle of endurance with some huge tackles in midfield with neither side willing to give up anything.
Suddenly from out of the trenches Du Pree chipped a kick and Bunce emerged to field the kick, avoid a couple of desperate tackles to score under the posts. Du Pree converted and the Barbarians went into the lead for the first time 17-16.
Cayman pressured the Barbarians line for the last six minutes of the match as both sides wore themselves almost to a standstill but the defence held and with the ball mere inches from the Barbarians line the final whistle blew.
The Caribbean Championships at South Sound will include Cayman, Mexico, Bermuda, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica and Guyana and will run at South Sound from 19-26 August. Cayman women will play Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.