Cayman’s junior rugby progress leaped up several notches by qualifing for the next round of the World Cup qualifiers. For a tiny island to do that against much bigger nations is phenomenal.
Cayman Under-19s beat Mexico 20-3 in the North America West Indies Rugby Association final in Barbados on Saturday.
Captained by Daniel McGrath, Cayman brushed aside the dangerous Mexicans having already claimed the Caribbean title in their previous game against Trinidad and Tobago.
Cayman will now be entered into the 2009 IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy to represent the region.
The same Cayman side beat Mexico 21-3 at Sound Sound exactly a year ago but going into the latest match Cayman could not take a repeat victory for granted.
Jamaica were the first team to represent the Caribbean in the JWRT but suffered heavy defeats to Georgia, Uruguay, Korea and the Cook Islands. Cayman hope they will do better.
Neither side had previously reached a Caribbean U-19 Championship final, but both Mexico and Cayman showed the improvements they have made over the last 12 months to finish top of Pool A and B respectively above the more fancied Jamaica and Guyana with unbeaten records.
Cayman drew 5-5 with the Trinis in their second match to reach the final. On day one, Cayman recovered from 8-3 down at half time to beat Guyana 21-13 with hooker Ed Westin and No.8 Matthew Hale their try scorers.
Losing to Cayman meant Guyana had to beat Trinidad & Tobago on day two to keep alive hopes of adding to their four titles from 2002 to 2005. They managed to do this, but only narrowly 15-10 with Trinidad & Tobago unable to turn their possession and pressure late on into a winning try.
Derek Haines, president of the Cayman Islands ‘This is a fantastic testimony to Cayman’s youth programme.
‘All the years that it has been running and the hard work and sacrifices made were worth it. It was especially pleasing to beat Mexico to prove that we really are the best in the region and won it outright.
‘To be ahead of the likes of such bigger rugby playing countries as Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica is a tremendous achievement.
‘It really augurs well for our senior side in a couple of years’ time. Considering many of our Under-19s are not based in Cayman and only get a chance to practice together sporadically makes this success all the more pleasing.’