Cayman learned from pitch battles

The Cayman Islands women’s rugby team traveled to Trinidad and Tobago for the Tobago 7s tournament last week and did well during a tournament in which they qualified for by finishing fourth in the NACRA 7s tournament hosted here last month.

The tournament was in Crown Point, Tobago and included strong teams from Canada, Scotland, Mexico, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, among the 14 sides.

Cayman was drawn in a group with the unknown Venezuela, the hosts nation and the Canadian Invitational team the Dog River Howlers, a side that heavily beat Cayman in Cuba a year ago.

Venezuela was beaten 35-0 by walkover as they did not field a team, so Cayman went fresh into their next game against the Trinidadians.

In monsoon-like conditions, Cayman was strong from the start, and an early break on the left by captain Joanne Ziegler was halted by the Trinis.

The ball was recycled out to the right where Cayman had numbers and Becky Sundell, a Swedish international, was able to out sprint the Trinidad defense for Cayman’s first try. Biannca Johnson then scored two tries, but the Trinis kept up the pressure with two tries of their own.

Then Cayman put together a move that left coach James Buckley impressed. It was started by Ziegler, who under pressure got the ball to Sundell, who was tackled by two Trini girls but got the ball off to Lisa Kehoe who in turn under pressure just got the ball off to Jenna Richards to score her first ever try for Cayman.

The final whistle was met with huge cheers, Cayman women had beaten T&T for the first time ever 20-10 – and on their own turf.

Next up was Canada’s Dog River Howlers, an extremely strong outfit. Cayman started the game well, playing some strong defense, but struggled to get the ball wide as they had against the Trinidadians and consequently found themselves defending for long periods.

Cayman hung in and laid some big hits on the Howlers, at one point knocking their most dangerous player out of the game.

But a brave Cayman lost narrowly 10-0. However, the earlier wins had put Cayman into the top eight for day 2 and the cup competition where they met some of the strongest teams.

On day 2 Cayman were put in a group with the Atlanta Harlequins, a U.S. select side Atlantis, containing several USA Eagles players and the Canadian national team.

Coach Buckley rested some starters for the first game against Atlantis, preferring to target Atlanta in the second game. Cayman played well, especially in defense against Atlantis, but the opposition were just too strong and Cayman loss 34-0.

Cayman then threw everything at Atlanta in a very physical encounter. Both sides went at it toe-to-toe, but Atlanta had the edge and won the close game 15-0.

Cayman next had to face the might of Canada, who had put at least 50 points on all the teams they had played to that point.

Cayman started strongly again and put in some crunching hits on the Canadians who were worried because after five minutes the game was scoreless.

Two tries were then scored before the break and the Canadians made adjustments in the second half that saw them winning the encounter 42-0.

Team manager Mark Wollard said: “We came away from the tournament with our heads held high. We beat Trinidad & Tobago for the first time ever and ran the Dog River Howlers and Atlanta very close. We now know what the next benchmark is to aim for.”

Cayman finished eighth out of the 14 sides in the tournament, finishing above regional rivals T&T, Guyana, Barbados and St. Lucia, with only Mexico finishing higher.

On day 2 they had close battles with Atlantis and Canada who eventually met in the final, which saw Canada put up another 50 point performance. Overall, Cayman did extremely well.

After the Christmas break they get back into training in January for a domestic league competition starting in March before heading off to Dallas in April to take on several teams from Texas as they build towards the CACSO games in Mexico in November.

Venezuela was beaten 35-0 by walk over as they did not field a team, so Cayman went fresh into their next game against the Trinidadians.