Cayman team gives US hard time

Like the men’s team, the Cayman national women’s team traveled to Cary, North Carolina, for the North American and Caribbean Rugby Association Championships over the weekend and acquitted themselves superbly. This year the tournament also served as the Olympic qualifier for the region. 

It meant only the inclusion of the top eight teams in the region, including World Series fifth-place USA.  

The Cayman team was immensely different in personnel from the team that achieved much success in December in Mexico City due to the stipulation of Cayman passport holders only for Olympic qualification and the unavailability of a huge number of key players due to work, study and other such commitments. 

The women’s team went with only 10 players, two short of a full squad, and with some new faces, such as flag football athlete Maggie Ebanks, recent recruit Sabrina Douglas and the return of veteran Clarice Diaz from long-term injury. They all participated in their first rugby tournament. Completing the squad were captain Shenel Gall, Marline Williams, Cassianne Lawrence, Chrishaunna Trowers, Jenna Richards, Tracey Seymour and Yasmin James.  

The coaching team of Dave Clancy and newly appointed team manager Rhian Minty had limited expectations but excitement at exposing so many of the squad to top-level competition for the first time. What prevailed over the weekend took everyone by surprise as Cayman started with a win over Barbados in their opening game. 

The match was filled with errors which were to be expected with first-game nerves for many.  

The women finished the day against Olympic favorites USA in the main stadium in front of a growing crowd out to support the home nation.  

Cayman gave an incredible account of themselves, tactically taking on key areas of USA’s game plan in the scrum, kickoff and wide channel attack.  

Cayman managed to accomplish roughly 50 percent possession and limit USA to the lowest score they achieved in the entire competition while also being the first and only real threat to their defense in the tournament with some well-worked set plays by Lawrence and Gall leading to line breaks.  

Cayman won many scrums thanks to huge focus from assistant coach Henry Warnock-Smith in this area. Also, the way in which they dealt with USA’s kick-off tactic led to praise being heaped on Cayman from USA head coach Ric Suggitt. 

He said even the best teams in the world regularly fail to deal with their kick-off tactics and expressed his excitement at seeing what the future holds for Cayman women’s rugby.  

Cayman entered day two with an elevated level of expectation and a goal set by coach Clancy to reach the shield final and provide the best opposition for a Guyana team who were racking up some big scores en route to the final.  

Cayman pulled out another hard-fought win in the semifinals to reach their target of a shield final position.  

Cayman went into the final as massive underdogs, but a team with a game plan that they believed, if executed, could cause Guyana trouble.  

Guyana got the first score, showing the great pace they have across their team to put them 5-0 ahead. Cayman settled from the resulting kickoff and maintained possession and pressure with an error-free performance.  

Two set play moves led to line breaks from crowd favorites Gall and Lawrence, leading to two tries for Cayman and a 12-10 victory to bring home the shield title in what is Cayman’s first tournament as an all-Caymanian squad.  

All involved with the team are appreciative of the backing of all sponsors and support staff who made the trip possible.  

Clancy said the future is bright for Cayman women’s rugby, and with the return of a huge number of players to the squad for the year ahead, they will go into next year’s competition with a very real chance of success. That tourney serves as a World Cup qualifier. 

Cayman women, back left to right, Jenna Richards, Yasmin James, Chrishaunna Trowers, Maggie Ebanks, Tracey Seymour, Cassianne Lawrence and Marline Williams. Front, Shenel Gall and Clarice Diaz.