Cayman Islands rugby’s international standing has taken a huge leap with the success of the Under-19s who were crowned Caribbean champions on Saturday and now go on to the next round of the World Cup.
Cayman’s young heroes will represent North America West Indies Rugby Association at the International Rugby Board Junior World Rugby Trophy next year after beating Mexico 22-3 in the Caribbean U-19 Championship final in Barbados.
It was the first time that either side had reached the final, Cayman having beaten Guyana and Mexico defeated the defending champions Jamaica in the pool stages to stand one win away from qualification.
The Jamaicans played in the inaugural Junior World Rugby Trophy in Chile in April.
Mexico enjoyed the perfect start when centre Christian Hennings kicked a penalty in the first minute in Barbados, but Cayman responded with a try from their inspirational leader in the forwards Daniel McGrath in the 14th minute, Gulliame Hammersley’s conversion making it 7-3 at half-time.
Cayman dominated much of the match with fly half Joel Clark pinning Mexico back in their own 22 with some excellent tactical kicking, a penalty by Hammersley extending their advantage before scrum half Michael Wilson scored his side’s second try to make it 17-3.
There was still time for second row Taron Forbes to touch down to complete Cayman’s victory and secure their place in an IRB international 15-a-side tournament for the first time in the second tier of Under 20 rugby beneath the IRB Junior World Championship.
‘This victory is a momentous occasion for rugby in Cayman and without doubt the most impressive achievement in the union’s history,’ admitted Richard ‘Grizz’ Adams, the Technical Director of Cayman Rugby. ‘Many of these players have come through our youth development programme and worked hard for three years to get to this stage.’
Adams has worked tirelessly in that time to elevate youth rugby on the island and this is just reward for all his efforts.
Miguel Carner, President of the Federacion Mexicana de Rugby, also acknowledged that ‘just getting to the final was a huge step for the further development of rugby in both unions’ and he was ‘encouraged and enthralled by the vast steps in progress made by this young Mexican side in the last couple of years’.
All eyes may have been on the final, but the two sides who had contested the 2007 showpiece were battling for third place with Jamaica ultimately coming out on top with a 12-0 defeat of Guyana after rediscovering some of the form that had been missing in the pool stages of the tournament.
Both teams looked to play an expansive running game, looking to move the ball away from the breakdown whenever possible to utilise their pace out wide, but strong defence kept the match scoreless at half-time.
Jamaica, though, started the second half brightly with Andre McFarlane and Dervel Rodney touching down shortly after the break to seal victory against a side they had needed a penalty shootout to defeat in last year’s final.
Trinidad & Tobago finished the tournament positively with their first win, 22-19 over hosts Barbados in the fifth place playoff with centre Derande-Jones Mandessa scoring a hat-trick of tries.