Academy are no pushovers

The third and final game of the Cayman Challenge Cup pitted two winless squads against one another, as the Cayman Under 20 Academy took on the might of the Southern Hemisphere.

The South still had a mathematical chance of winning the Cayman Challenge, if they could hand the Under 20 squad a solid whipping.

In order to overtake the Northern Hemisphere at the top of the table, the South needed to win by at least 40 points.

However, without a couple of key players, the South were looking more vulnerable. The Under 20 squad had also been reinforced with a number of overseas based players making their return to the squad and would certainly prove worthy opponents.

In fact, a number of older Academy players took the field for the South in order to bolster the squad in the absence of some of their star players.

The South started strong, and drove up the field from their first possession. However, an error caused possession to be turned over and set the tone for the first part of the game.

Both teams created and then squandered some excellent opportunities. It was not until the 18th minute that the South managed to put the first points on the board through some good work from stalwart Chris Bunce who passed to Academy loaner Josh Clark to send him over for the score.

The dismal kicking performance of the previous week seemed set to continue as the South missed their first attempt at a conversion.

Youthful enthusiasm seemed to get the better of the Under 20 side as they often found themselves getting penalised for offside play at the ruck, negating a lot of good work.

The break at the quarter seemed to do the Under 20s a world of good, as they came out fired up and with a renewed sense of purpose.

Erick Arch crashed over the line from a five metre penalty to draw the Under 20 side level with the South, with Robbie Cribb making the conversion to give them a two point advantage.

Ten minutes later, Guillaume Hammersley chipped the ball over the South’s defensive line and gathered up the ball to touch down.

The conversion was missed, which left the Under 20 side leading 12-5 at half time.

The South started the second half with determination, knowing that they now faced finishing last in the Challenge Cup should they be unable to claw back a couple of points.

After sustained pressure, Dustin Norton managed to score for the South, bringing them back to within two points of the Under 20s. The conversion attempt failed, leaving them two points adrift.

The Under 20s extended their lead again as Hammersley broke through the backline from a lineout and passed to Taylor Wight who scored to stretch the lead back out to seven points.

The South were not finished though, as Bunce burst through the Under 20 defence to reel the gap back to two points.

The South looked set to move into the lead again as they spent a number of minutes attacking the Academy line, but failing to break through the defence. The youngsters managed to turn play around and soon found themselves close to the South’s line.

Michael Wilson picked up the ball from the base of the ruck and passed to Joel Clark who ran in the team’s fourth try, thereby claiming the bonus point.

Cribb slotted the conversion to take the score to 24-15 and deliver a surprise win for the Under 20 side.

The result meant the Northern Hemisphere claimed the Cayman Challenge Cup for 2008, with Academy in second place and the Southern Hemisphere bringing up the rear.

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