Cayman’s young rugby stars limbered up for their big test on a trip to Fort Lauderdale last weekend.
Twenty-two players from the 2009 Under-20 and U19 squads that will compete in the Junior World Trophy in Kenya and the U19 North American championships in Cayman in July took part in a warm-up camp and tournament.
The camp started on Thursday 26 February and ran for two days, followed by matches against the elite level teams of the USA Super League on Saturday and Sunday.
The main focus of the camp was to prepare the U20s for the type of rugby they will encounter in Kenya and the level of teams present was far from disappointing.
In Cayman’s first game Old Mission Bay Athletic Club fielded 15 players that were all fully capped in either the Super 14, NPC or as USA Eagles and showed why they were ranked fourth in the USA last year.
The standard was extremely high and Cayman found the going tough. Though the final result was 52-5 there was plenty for the Cayman coaches to be happy with.
In the second game Cayman faced the Boston Irish Wolfhounds Super League side who finished second in the USA in 2008 and also boasted a host of international caps.
Cayman once again made huge improvements, showing that they were every bit prepared to take on the size and power of the Boston players. Boston ran out winners in this game 58-0.
Cayman then faced the Boston Irish Wolfhounds Division 1 team on Sunday after the Miami Tridents defaulted the originally planned game.
At half time Cayman were 10-0 down but with the wind at their backs they came back scoring two tries of their own and won 14-10 to finish off a great four days of preparation.
Technical director Richard ‘Grizz’ Adams reflected on a worthwhile camp.
‘Steve Clark and I knew that this was going to be a very tough tournament for the young players. They are after all trying to compete with men playing weekly in the Super League as well as for their respective countries and in world class competitions all over the world.
‘They are bigger, stronger, more fit and have many more years experience playing at these levels. True, the USA U20 faced the same opposition. But that is why this weekend was so important to us, it gave us all a marker of just where we are.
‘The good news is that while we feel we are currently a little behind the USA U20 programme, we still have six weeks to get better while the USA players will likely not be able to get back together until they are in Kenya.
‘The players also realize this and can do a lot of work in six weeks. If we really work hard we can do most of the catching up.
‘The reality is that we are giving up a lot of size and power against the USA U20 team so we will have to try and out-think and out-manoeuvre them.
‘If everything goes okay on the day, Steve and I both feel that this can be accomplished. More importantly the players also believe they can do the job against the USA if all goes well over the next few weeks.’
From there Adams talked about the test of character the players faced against the likes of Boston.
‘The fact that these young Cayman players were able to come back and beat the Wolfhounds on Sunday, albeit not the very best players they had available, is remarkable as most players of this age would have bowed their heads and admitted they were not good enough.
‘Remember, our players have had the two hardest games in their lives by some margin on Saturday and they were sore and beaten to put it plainly.
‘However even after conceding two tries in the first half the players dug deep and produced an outstanding win against an excellent USA club side and that is not to be scoffed at by anyone.’
Adams finished off his assessment of the trip by putting it into context against other trips and forthcoming local games.
‘In the longer term the team we will be able to field in July for the U19 championships will be very much stronger than the team we fielded in Barbados in 2008 so that bodes well for that tournament.
‘I am delighted with the effort the players have put in over the past year, many of them played in new positions and to be honest their learning curve was exceptional this last weekend.
‘The next six weeks are vital as we have to carefully monitor this group in their training and learning so as not to risk injury and fatigue.
‘We have two more Brightstaff Alex Alexander Cup matches before we leave and several training sessions.
‘Once we arrive in the UK we will look to get as much rest as possible and have light training only, so we need to have it all right before we depart on 11 April.’