Touch of champs

Cayman’s touch rugby esteem went up several notches last week after a team won a big tournament in the US.

CML Recruitment Cayman Pirates, returned victorious from the US National Touch Rugby competition in Houston. The competition, held annually in North America, involved teams from all over the US and this year invitations were sent to several Canadian and Caribbean teams.

Cayman Pirates faced tough opposition in the semi-finals in the aptly named Houston Hurricanes side, who were the only team to beat Cayman in the pool stages.

Cayman Pirates Captain Guy Major said: ‘We lost to the Hurricanes 4-1 in the pool round, so we were concerned about playing them again in the semis. However, we focused and played really well together, learning from our mistakes against them in the first match. We surprised ourselves, producing a truly awesome display to knock them out 9-2.’

The final was also a high scoring affair against the Orlando Vagabonds.

Racing into a three try lead early on, Orlando remained odds on favourites early on.

Not to be outdone, Mike McGrath rose to the occasion and put together some dazzling moves and pulled Cayman back to within one try at half time.

In the second half the scoring became a see saw event with neither side being able to get more than one score ahead of the other. Tied at eight tries apiece and with the last seconds of the clock ticking away, a quick tap from a penalty from touch stalwart Sharlee Henshaw produced the vital try and Cayman ran out winners 9-8.

A jubilant Major added: ‘Playing on full size touch pitches at a much quicker pace than we were used to, we knew the final would come down to fitness.

‘We dug deep in the second half and controlled the game well. Simon Raftpolous was also voted Most Valuable Player in the mixed tournament by the organizers, so it was a great double victory for the Cayman Islands.

‘As it was our first time in the tournament, the objective when we put the team together was to win just one game so it was very surprising to come away as overall winners.

‘It was also a great team to play in because it was very well balanced and every member played a significant role. We are very grateful to Rangi Attenborough for coaching the team and those who have been instrumental in driving mixed touch rugby on the island – the likes of Matt Bishop, Sharlee Henshaw, Jo Ziegler and Mark and Leigh Fagan.’

Touch rugby, the shorter non-contact version of the game, has been flourishing for six years in Cayman and can now be played pretty much all year round at the South Sound rugby pitch in various organized leagues such as the Androgroup Summer league, the Top Drawer Fine Lingerie Women’s League and the Ogier Winter League.

Richard ‘Grizz’ Adams, technical director at Cayman Rugby Club said: ‘To go to Houston and win shows the high standards these players have achieved in Cayman over the past six years thanks to the tireless efforts of so many avid volunteers, who put in so much time and effort to make these leagues and competitions take place.

‘I think that it is a truly wonderful effort and of course the touch rugby aspect of the CRFU is invaluable. Sponsors and several key individuals have played a large role in this development and this result should give us confidence.

‘Many of the sides are keen to come to a tournament in Cayman, which would be fantastic for rugby here. This result puts us firmly on the touch map in North America.’

The Cayman Pirates squad was: Mark Browne, Carmel Harms, Sharlee Henshaw, Steven Henshaw, Victoria Hitchworth, Campbell Law, Natasha MacFayden, Guy Major, Mike McGrath, Sean O’Neil, Simon Raftopolous, Joanne Ziegler.