Cayman’s rapidly growing reputation for hosting major sporting events was amplified over the weekend with the staging of the SteppingStones North America and Caribbean Rugby Association sevens.
Twenty hours of fast-paced rugby on Saturday and Sunday at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex witnessed by a large crowd both days, many dressed in pirate gear but preferring to watch world-class rugby rather than swashbuckling on the high seas.
Twelve countries battled it out in the hopes of reaching the 2014 Commonwealth games in Glasgow, CACSO games in Vera Cruz, Mexico, and the HSBC World Sevens Series Hong Kong in 2014.
The two strongest teams were Canada and the United States who sent their men’s Olympic development teams and Canada sent their women’s team.
Mexico and Jamaica returned as last year’s first and second placed NACRA teams, along with Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, BVI, Curacao, Turks and Caicos, Trinidad and Tobago.
The teams were split into three pools for day 1 round-robin play, with the top two teams in each pool going into the Cup round and the bottom two teams going into the Plate round on day 2.
Pool A consisted of Canada Maple Leafs, Bahamas, Barbados and Turks and Caicos
Pool B had USA Falcons, Trinidad and Tobago, Cayman Islands and Curacao Pool C comprised of Mexico, Jamaica, Bermuda and British Virgin Islands.
Canada and the US topped Pools A and B, respectively and Jamaica won Pool C.
Cayman hoped to finish second in Pool B and progress to the Cup round on Sunday but having lost to the Americans and then the Trinidadians, their hopes of qualifying for the big tournaments evaporated.
Cayman men finished sixth overall and the women were a commendable fourth.
Canada beat the US 27-5 in the men’s final and Canada’s women thrashed Mexico 51-0 in their final.
Besides SteppingStones, main corporate hospitality came from LIME, The Security Centre, Esso, the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee and Chris Johnson Associates.
Cayman Rugby Union chief executive officer Richard “Grizz” Adams was disappointed with the men’s sixth place because expectations were so high but he was pleased that the inexperienced women’s team came fourth.
Many were Caymanians brand new to the sport and playing their first international matches. They included Tracey Seymour and Shenel Gall, better known for excellence in boxing and football, respectively.
The Cayman men, led by Jon Murphy, had worked really hard for months with Dave Clancy employed through a Commonwealth Games grant to deliver strength and conditioning programs.
Overall, Cayman men played well, but they really lost their way against the Trinidadians. Despite scoring first, a mixture of sloppy passing and handling, plus poor tactics allowed the Trinis to beat them easily. Still a very young team, Cayman can build on this experience through youngsters like Morgan Hayward, Alex Harvey, Garrett Connolly, Alex Pineau, Ed Westin, Robbie Cribb and Joel and Josh Clark.
Adams said: “Our women finished in the top four which was a real surprise, they did extremely well and they played some really established sides.
“The guys did alright, but we struggled with the refereeing, which was inconsistent. We won three and lost three games.’
Adams could be accused of being a sore loser. “Yes, absolutely,” he said. “But when you play the top-level teams you rely on the officials get the calls right and if they don’t do that, it is very difficult.”