The domestic Cayman rugby season kicked off with much fanfare and huge expectations as old foes DHL Storm and the John Doak Architecture Iguanas faced off at the South Sound field on Saturday.
The Iguanas, 2010 AA Cup league champions, in their new silver and black livery received the kick off from the ever loud and flamboyant DHL Storm who were without golden boy Ratu Wakanibua who was away visiting family in his Fiji homeland.
The absence of Wakanibua put much weight firmly on captain Keswick Wright who had missed virtually all of the 2010 season through injury and the usually effervescent full back Venasio Tokotokovanua to pull out game winning performances.
The pace was frantic with the Iguana forwards asserting their early dominance. There was the danger that the Iguanas would be caught out early having fielded a side dominated by forwards featuring Chris Kennedy and Rob Rintoul in the centres supported out wide by young new winger Tom Mann and Jeremy Channon who would normally be seen officiating games instead of playing.
Whilst the Iguanas dominated the first 40 minutes it was some ill discipline which allowed the Storm to draw first blood through a Michael Sumares penalty. Sumares doubled the Storm lead shortly thereafter with another penalty to take the score to 6-0 but the John Doak Architecture Iguanas seemed largely unphased in the knowledge that having controlled the lion’s share of ball possession in open play and winning ball against the head in scrums would lead to points on the board.
The Iguanas were the first to score a try after some poor DHL defence allowed Iguana fly half Marcus Cumber to step inside towards his pack, off-load to No.8 Richard Lewis in open space with only 20 yards to the DHL line. A Lewis offload to Chris Kennedy lead to an easy five points under the post for full back Johnny Doak to slot an extra two point conversion.
The Iguanas wanted to maintain their one point lead going into the second half but a slick blind side move put the ball into Keswick Wright’s hands who chipped ahead past Jeremy Channon into the corner.
A Wright chip and chase battle would normally never end in points due to Wright’s erratic kicking skills but on this occasion the ball’s bounce was with the DHL captain and the score in the corner ended a short lived Iguana lead.
The Iguanas, with many absences from the Island and even a few preseason injuries had a sparse selection of reserves whilst the Storm camp was brimming full of players to throw into the mêlée.
Whilst there was little the Storm could do to correct their flailing set piece play the fresh legs helped elsewhere on the park. The introduction of West Indies 7s star Josh Clark just before half time made an immediate impact on the game with Clark able to finish off some quick ball handling to score under the Iguanas posts and further extend the Storm lead before the half time whistle.
The pace of the game did not let up in the second half and whilst the Iguanas were the first to get the scoreboard ticking again with an easy penalty for full back Doak to take the score to 10-18, the DHL Storm equalled their two tries in the first half and then changed their focus to defending their own line against the Iguana onslaught.
Another penalty for Doak and a Tom Mann debut try built from a poor DHL Storm clearance were the last points for the Iguanas while the Storm pack held a tiring Iguana pack and haggard back line off their try line on three occasions. The early ill-discipline and the impact substitutions from the Storm were the deciding factors for them. The DHL Storm retained the Heineken Shield for another year and enjoyed 20 cases of Heineken donated by Jacques Scott.
The next games are the first round of the AA Cup on 29 January between DHL Storm and Queensgate Pigs Trotters, at 2:30pm and Krys & Associates Buccaneers against John Doak Architecture Iguanas at 4pm.
All games are streamed live worldwide on www.caymanrugbytv.com and can be followed on Facebook.