U16s grit through toughest test

Cayman’s youth rugby scene is
making strides forward and the latest example of that came overseas in Florida.

The Cayman Under-16 stole the show
at the Fort Lauderdale Ruggerfest two weekends ago as they took on Florida North
All Star Selects and the full Florida All Star selects.

In extremely wet, cold and windy
conditions on Saturday the team ran in five tries from Tyler Philips, Israel
Hawkins, Tom Mann (two) and Sebastien Legras while Morgan Hayward added two penalty
kicks and three conversions in a 37–0 win against Florida North while they did
not concede a single point.

That rang alarm bells for the Florida select coaching
and management staff. The planned match against Florida South for Sunday was
quickly changed to the Florida All Star team allowing the coaches to pick the
very best players throughout Florida.

The Cayman players and management
group were very happy with the display on Saturday. Among them was Cayman’s
Director of Rugby Richard Adams, who was on hand to watch the future of
Cayman’s international rugby players.

“This management group of Noel
Philips, Garry Southway and Russell Hayward have completed an admirable job
with this group of players over the past few seasons and that is really starting
to pay off at this level,” Adams said. “These
players have been heavily involved in the ever-expanding Greenlight RE schools
programs, the impressive Maples community rugby program and the national U17

“Last year they competed internationally
for the first time in the Conyers Bermuda Youth Challenge Cup in Bermuda beating the Bermuda U15 team. They then travelled
to North Carolina
to play and won all of their matches there as well.

“This year this is their first competition
and the indicators are that the group has progressed well over the past season.
They faced the best that Florida
has to offer at this time.”

On Sunday, in comfortably warm but
still windy conditions, the Cayman team lined up against a bigger looking Florida select. The game
was fairly even until Cayman scored through Tom Mann after 20 minutes and from
then on Cayman simply poured on the pressure and never relented, showing a
discipline and maturity well ahead of their years.

Further tries from Sebastien Legras
(two) and Michael Peck and a conversion from Morgan Hayward rounded out the
score at 22–0 and also gave Cayman their second clean sheet of the weekend with
a tally of 59 points scored and 0 conceded in two matches.

It was a huge success for the
Cayman team and a great indicator for the future. Man of the match in the first
match was Israel Hawkins while man of the match in the second match was Sebastien
Legras, most improved went to Aaron Kennedy while Josh Baker took players of
the tournament.

The U16’s senior counterparts also
travelled to Fort Lauderdale
where they competed in the club competition. Coach Brad Cowdroy had various
levels of players to use over the weekend with some brand new graduates of the
U19 academy as well as some seasoned veterans and everything in between.

The aim of the tour was to identify
those that have the potential to be part of the Caribbean Championships that
are set for November. Coach Cowdroy in his first outing in a senior coaching
role with Cayman and manager Duane Magis managed their team well to make it as
far as the first semi-final before the team was knocked out of the competition.

Next up for the U16 team is the
tournament in North Carolina
March 14 and 15 when they will play a further two or three matches and then all
eyes turn to the Conyers Bermuda Cayman Youth challenge cup May 2nd when Cayman
will host youth teams at U10, U12, U14 and U16 for full youth internationals.

Adams was very impressed with Cayman’s trip on a whole.

“I would say that this group and
those behind them have a very bright future especially while we can count on
the kind of support of Maples, Greenlight RE, the Cayman government, REMAX,
Mourant, Conyers (who ensure international age grade competition for Cayman)
and others are offering us at these levels of youth development.”