Academy overcome Victorian lads

After successfully reaching the final of the Calgary Stampede Invitational Rugby Sevens, the Maples Cayman National Academy Sevens squad moved to Victoria to continue its development camp.

There, Cayman played in the Victoria Invitational Sevens where the level of opposition was a cut above the previous tournament. Both the US and Canada development squads were present along with top US club side Old Puget Sound, led by Fijian legend Serevi and also a top invitational British Columbia Sevens team with a number of current and ex-internationals.

There were also teams like the South Seas, Crimson Tide, a select side from Victoria Island and the US military that had players from New Zealand, Fiji, Australia and South Africa.

Cayman played first against British Columbia, who were stacked with ex-Canadian internationals. In a tough, physical game Cayman lost 26-7 with their lone score coming from good attacking work finished by Venassio Tokatakovanua.

Next up was the US, a team Cayman played previously in a practice game and conceded heavily against. In a very tight game, Cayman had at least two chances to score and broke the US defence on a number of occasions. The US had to work to win 17-0 with three scores but the result did not reflect an excellent team effort by Cayman, particularly in defence and scrummaging.

With considerable confidence after the US game, Cayman played against the South Seas team and in a very physical game, they came out winners 14-10 with tries by Michael Wilson and Josh Clark. The forward work of Clark, Bond, Fourie, Travers and Westin provided an excellent platform from which to compete against a much bigger team in the South Seas.

The Bowl semi-final was against the Crimson Tide and Cayman played their best rugby of the tournament in scoring 20 unanswered points in the first half through Matthew Hale, Garrett Conolly, Dow Travers and Michael Wilson. In the second half, Crimson Tide came back strongly but the Maples Academy team showed good defence and the final score was 20-10, putting Cayman into the Bowl final to play for fourth and fifth spot.

The Bowl final was against the South Seas, who had a bye in the semis due to the USA Military team having to pull out due to injury, so Cayman had played four games to South Seas’ three. Josh Clark opened the scoring for Cayman with a try in the first minute then his brother Joel followed with a score moments later.

South Seas then came back strongly and at half time were leading by two points. After the break, the game seesawed with further tries from Joel Clark and Michael Wilson but also two further tries for the South Seas. With two minutes to go, Cayman were leading 26-24. The introduction of Keswick Wright made a huge difference when he made an excellent break that resulted in another try by Michael Wilson to seal the game for Cayman and finish as Bowl winners 33-22.

The Maples National Academy Sevens team would place fifth overall. The final standings see team Canada in first followed by British Columbia, Old Puget Sound and the US. Cayman finished ahead of South Seas, Crimson Tide and the US Military.

The squad is now looking forward to their third and final tournament in Vancouver, the International Serevi Sevens where again the competition will be of a World Sevens Series level. Cayman have been drawn in Pool A of the tournament, to be played on 22 July, along with The Serevi Select Seven, which includes world superstars Ben Gollings and Waiselle Serevi, Old Puget Sound, the current US Sevens club champions and Edmonton Select, who Cayman beat in the Calgary Stampede Sevens semis. Teams in Pool B include Burnaby, Fiji Wings Select, Fiji Wardens, the Current Fijian club champions and South Seas.

Cayman play at 10.40am versus Serevi Selects, 13.20 against Old Puget Sound and 15.10 against Edmonton before they progress into the final rounds that commence at 16.40.

The national team selectors will be naming the squad of 12 players who will represent the Cayman Islands at the Rugby World Cup Qualifiers, to be held in Ottawa on 25-26 August, on the morning of 23 July.