The Cayman Under-19 National Rugby team recently returned from Mexico having successfully defended their Caribbean Championship. This is the second year in a row that this group of players have won the title and the fourth time in the last five years that Cayman have been champions.
Cayman started the defence of their title by facing Mexico less than 24 after arriving in the capital Mexico City. The Mexico team were strongly fancied after preparing for this tournament with tours to Canada and Argentina. The host team was also much bigger than the Cayman side, and this was expected by many to be the most keenly contested match of the whole tournament.
Mexico started the game strongly with a dominant display by their forwards resulting in Cayman finding it hard to get a regular supply of the ball from scrums and lineouts. Cayman’s young front row of Giavanni Dixon, Jordan Southway and Gary Watler did not give an inch in the ferocious scrummaging battle, but found it hard to get clean ball early on.
Vice Captain Alex Pineau was an early casualty of the Mexican onslaught, having to leave the field after only ten minutes. His replacement Dominic Davies joined the battle earlier than planned, but slotted in well and later in the game proved to be a vital player in supplying quality lineout possession.
The Cayman boys were heroic in their defence, with the back three of Tom Mann, Iain Currie and Sebastien Legras all making try saving tackles and showing great skill and composure in dealing with the Mexican kicking game. After more than thirty minutes the score was tied at 3-3, with Captain Morgan Hayward and his opposite number exchanging penalties. Minutes before half time. Hayward took a quick tap penalty and took play into to the opposition 22 for the first time. Paul Westin was on hand to carry the ball forward and was stopped just short of the try line before the ball was recycled with scrum half Michael Peck swiftly moving the ball wide for Legras to score a try in the corner. This left the half time score 8 – 3 in favour of Cayman.
The second half saw a change in the balance of play with Cayman winning better quality possession and posing more problems for the host team. Cayman’s back row of Andy Hall, Aaron Kennedy, Paul Westin, second row Israel Hawkins and replacement hooker Cody Bush were heroic in their defence, making an incredible number of vital tackles and turnovers, forcing the opposition to give away vital penalties.
Cayman extended their lead further with another Hayward penalty before Mexico replied to make the score 11- 6 to Cayman which turned out to be the score at the final whistle. This hard earned and vital victory was based on a well organised and aggressive defence from the whole team. Dan Hall was selected as man of the match for his crucial display alongside fellow centre William Hayward, refusing to let anyone breach their midfield defence.
With Cayman now sitting on top of their group they knew that a win against Barbados four days later would see them reach the final. What followed in the next seventy minutes of rugby was nothing short of breathe taking. The Cayman team produced what must surely be the teams most complete display of rugby in their three years together. The Barbados team fancied their chances of turning over Cayman, but from the first play of the game were completely outclassed. Number 8 Aaron Kennedy started the try scoring fest within just a few minutes of kick off following a well rehearsed forward drive.Next came an individual effort from 45 metres out by William Hayward. Tom Mann then got the first of his two tries in a man of the match performance.
The forwards and backs continued to combine superbly with another six tries to follow from Morgan Hayward (2) Seb Legras, Dan Hall, Angel Hawkins and a fit again Alex Pineau. Morgan Hayward piled on the agony for a spirited Barbados team by converting six out of his seven kicks, most of them from the touch line. In this game, Cayman showed their strength in depth with excellent contributions from replacements Angel Hawkins, Justin Hislop, Willie Cruz and Josh Baker. It was unfortunate that Jordan Mclaughlin was unable to take the field due to an injury picked up in training. Final score Cayman 60 Barbados 0.
With Trinidad and Tobago overcoming Bermuda and Mexico Aztecs in the other group, the final was set to be a repeat of last years Truman Bodden epic. The pace, power and team spirit of the Trinidad and Tobago players would again be a major challenge for the Cayman side.
Cayman started the game well, almost crossing the line with a well executed backline move. Trinidad and Tobago were to get the first points of the game with a penalty against the run of play, only for Morgan Hayward to tie the score 3 – 3 with a well struck penalty. The Cayman forwards were dominant in the scrums and lineouts, but some strange refereeing decisions prevented Cayman from developing any pattern to their game. Cayman extended their lead at half time to 9 – 3 thanks to two monster penalty kicks by William Hayward from within his own half of the field.
In the second half Cayman took a strangle hold on the game thanks to their superior set piece and precise tactical kicking. From a dominant scrum close to the opposition try line, Aaron Kennedy was able to pick up and power over for his second try of the tournament. This was shortly followed by a Morgan Hayward penalty to give Cayman a comfortable 20 -3 lead. In the last ten minutes Cayman were reduced to 14 players due to a yellow card, and the valiant Trinidad and Tobago team had their best spell of the final. They eventually crossed for a well taken try which they converted to leave the final score Cayman 20, Trinidad and Tobago 10. Alex Pineau was selected as man of the match and Morgan Hayward was chosen as Most Valuable Player of the Tournament.
Cayman brought the Trophy back home with and impressive record of 3 wins from 3, scoring 91 points for with 16 against. They also finished with a try count of 11 tries for and 1 against.