Swapping snow and ice for sand and sea, two visiting teams from the New York City Touch League enjoyed a great afternoon of high level touch rugby here on Saturday.
Freezing temperatures in the Big Apple were swapped for blazing heat at the Camana Bay sports field.
The NY Pigeons and the NY Rats faced off against the Cayman Pirates and the Cayman Stingrays in a round-robin tournament that ended with a thrilling finale.
The Pirates took on the Rats and dominated proceedings from the start. Better acclimatized to the conditions, the Pirates used fast moves through the midfield keeping the Rats on the back foot. Excellent link play between Morgan Shelver and Andrew West proved highly productive and tries were scored regularly resulting in a 7-2 win for the Pirates.
Then the Stingrays succumbed to the Pigeons’ excellent interplay and running lines and lost 4-2 to the visitors.
The second round of games saw the Cayman Pirates continue their impressive form with a 4-1 win over the Pigeons.
Shelver again was the linchpin and playmaker with great support from Adam Huckle, Jyoti Choi, Vikki Piaso and Mike McGrath.
The visiting Rats found some top form in their second game against the Stingrays and put their first round defeat behind them with an impressive 4-2 win.
Round 3 saw the Pirates thrash the Stingrays 10-0 and the New York teams fight out a 4-4 draw.
In the grand finale, the Pirates had made it through and took on the might of a combined team for New York City Touch.
And what a final it was with two highly skilled teams mesmerizing as the ball moved from side to side and up and down the pitch at speed.
It was a classic confrontation as each team took it in turn to exert pressure and dominance of the territory, possession and ultimately the scoreboard.
In the first half the Cayman Pirates got off to a flyer and it was the impish and combative Andrew West who popped up everywhere.
Pirates took an early lead sticking to the game plan of direct running combined with killer switch play on the final phases.
Cross running to pull the defense out of position had worked all day and so it was in the first half with West bagging a hat-trick of tries often managing to dot the ball down just milliseconds before the defensive cover made the touch.
Jo Remillard scored a brilliant try for the Pirates after excellent running from Neal Ainscow to put them 4-0 up.
She expertly danced down the sideline before grounding the ball under intense pressure from the covering defender.
NYCT answered back with a neatly worked try of their own, Tamir Taylor scoring from close range.
The half time score of 4-1 to the Pirates looked an unassailable lead.
The second half proved an entirely different affair. It was the turn of NYCT to make the Pirates scamper and as wave after wave of attacks came, the cracks started showing in the Pirates’ defense. After excellent build up play between Cat Fitzgerald and Annie Morton, NYCT scored again, the try credited to Renee Ovrut.
Pivotal to their play was Abe Robertson and Simon Gawn and as they started to peg the score back it renewed their resolve, frustrating the Pirates into making poor decisions when in possession.
As the clock ticked away Abe Robertson scored a well worked try bringing the score to 4-3.
With the end approaching, last gasp touches from Adam Huckle, Shelver, and Jayme Farrell kept the Pirates in front.
However, the New Yorkers showed their resilience and in the final play Robertson, who had been stellar throughout the day, launched himself at the try line from three metres out and cleverly sneaked under the outstretched hand of the Cayman defense to score.
This tied the scores at 4-4. As the final whistle blew it was a fitting end to a great afternoon of touch.
Cayman Pirates were left wondering how they let it slip but, overall, a draw was the right result.
New York City Touch returned to their wintry climes having tasted a touch of Cayman life and given a great account of themselves.
For the Cayman teams, a return trip to New York in July could be the incentive they need to find winning ways.