The inaugural National Touch Rugby Championships 2012 started last Saturday with some of the best players in Grand Cayman in action.
Playing for the first time under full international touch rules, six teams produced some rousing rugby, prolific passing, sensational side-steps and scintillating sprinting under the baking Cayman sun.
First up were Heineken Brew Crew against DART. With its potent mix of wizened old heads and some of the finest young bucks from the Cayman Rugby National Under 20s team, Heineken Brew Crew proved too much for DART.
Superior knowledge and blistering speed led them to early scores from the brothers Morgan and Will Hayward. Solid performances from Caroline Deegan and Lisa Kehoe kept DART on the back foot until the Morgan parted the DART defence.
It was one-way traffic and Dave Bailey, the Brew Crew’s oldest member, despite the cries of “Come on grandad!” showed the nimble footwork of a man half his age and weighed in with two top tries of his own.
As DART reeled from the battering they contributed to their own downfall with some elementary errors in defence. Further tries from Keswick Wright, Lisa Kehoe and Bianca Johnson secured a 10-2 victory for the Heineken Brew Crew. Riley Mullen added two late consolation tries for DART.
Maybe it is something about playing rugby in an all-black kit but Team Black looked every bit as dominating on the rugby paddock as the New Zealand All Blacks with a stirring 16-1 victory over Walkers Blue Iguanas.
The ball flew from hand-to-hand in a dazzling display of free-flowing rugby. Mike McGrath pulled the strings and was pivotal in much of Team Black’s good work. His fast offloads and quick passing helped Simon Raftopoulos and captain Scott McCarty bag four tries each and James Waters pitched in with three more.
The gathered crowd was mightily impressed but the Walkers defence looked simply shell-shocked. More were added to the total by Rudolf Weder, Etienne Duvenage and McGrath himself in a match that couldn’t end fast enough for Walkers who admirably battled to the end and were eventually rewarded with a late Paul Smith try.
KPMG were next and they put a scratch team through their paces against Heineken Brew Crew. Never having played together before they looked understandably disorganised in the opening exchanges and the Brew Crew opened up a lead early in the first half.
However, as the game progressed KPMG started to find holes in the defensive line that the speedy Dean Curtis exploited to great effect.
With playmaker Neil Montgomery coming more and more into the game they steadily pegged back the score line and by half-time held a slender 6-5 lead.
Heineken started to buckle under the strain and the pressure led to a frank exchange of words between team-mates at half-time. It looked like an upset may be on the cards but, possibly buoyed by some refreshments provided by their eponymous sponsor, the Heineken Brew Crew rallied in the second half.
Will Hayward, the younger brother, outscored his sibling by two tries to one and Steve Henshaw bulldozed his way to the try-line with two more. KPMG ran out of energy late and eventually were defeated 11-7. They should take heart from this performance though and will be tough to beat as the championships progress.
Maples played their first game against Team Black. It certainly felt as if they had been pitched into the lion’s den as Team Black made a fast start. Raftopoulos was instrumental in keeping the scoreboard ticking over and his elusive running angles will be a feature of this tournament.
Maples would not lie down and kept the score close until midway through the second half with tries from Marty Livingston, Jyoti Choi and Chris Palmer. Maples were able to give a fine show of their greatest moves but Team Black showed their mettle and eventually proved too strong. Weder (3), Duvenage (2) and Waters (2) sealed the deal to run out 11-6 winners.
The closest game of the day was saved until last when the two Cayman corporate behemoths – Maples and DART – faced off as the sun set. Tiffin was taken in the Main Stand and DART were equally hospitable allowing easy and early tries to their rivals.
Guy Major played a central role along with Adam Huckle and Joanne Ziegler as they started to dictate play. In adversity DART showed some spirit and after spluttering and stuttering their way through the early exchanges, they finally found some fluidity and brought the score back to 7-6 at half-time.
Three tries apiece for Major and Choi from Maples were answered by a similar hat-trick for Iain Blackwell for DART. First up DART tries for Nic Schwartz, Michael Mulligan and Siobhan O’Sullivan kept the crowd engaged with this exciting match.
The final score showed a Maples win 10-8, however, DART can take heart from their performance and with improved decision-making in key areas they can trouble other teams in the league.
So Team Black head the table after the early exchanges but one thing that is assured is that there will be plenty of thrills and spills in this competition. So anyone seeking fast and furious rugby it’s worth going to the South Sound Rugby Ground on Saturday 14 April for the next round of the National Touch Rugby Championships 2012.