Storm blows away Buccaneers in frantic rugby final

Advance Fire Buccaneers’ Barry Goude attempts to get past the Fidelity Cayman Storm. – Photo: Caroline Deegan Photography

The Fidelity Cayman Storm sealed an extraordinary turnaround to their season by defeating the Advance Fire and Plumbing Buccaneers 19-14 in a fast-paced, frenetic and occasionally frantic spectacle at the South Sound Rugby Club on Saturday. They secured the Dart Vase in front of a large and appreciative crowd.

That the Storm were even in the final was remarkable – until last week they had not won a game all season, but they overturned the formerly dominant league champions, the Queensgate Pigs Trotters, in the semifinal.

The Storm management and players have maintained a wonderful spirit throughout the season, successfully growing their player base and attracting a number of young Caymanians to their ranks, coaches said.

Coach Brendan Touhey has insisted that all squad members get game time each week, regardless of the result, and this experience has built a noticeable sense of togetherness and resilience.

It was the Storm who started the game most effectively, playing to a clear pattern which targeted the Buccaneers fringe defense at the breakdown.

Caymanian prop Nick Greaves proved particularly strong in the carry and has been a real find for the Storm this season, though his initial withdrawal after only 20 minutes demonstrates a need for increased fitness. By then, though, the Storm had taken the lead through a well-worked pick-and-go try, the outstanding Jeffrey Robinson crashing over from short range before Phil Parker added the conversion to make the score 7-0.

The Buccs, who had overcome the John Doak Iguanas in the semifinal, fought their way back into the game, winning the battle for field position due to a number of indiscretions at the breakdown from the Storm and the excellent kicking from hand of Will Hayward. Scrum-half Dave Stringer was a live-wire threat at the base of the ruck and eventually the Storm midfield were caught offside in kicking range, with Dave Clancy slotting the three points. Moments later, the Storm were under pressure again near their line, flanker Tom Mayman failed to release the tackled player, and the lead was cut to a single point by another Clancy penalty.

Before halftime came a moment of individual brilliance. Fijian Venasio Tokatokavanua has been working at introducing the game of rugby to young kids in Cayman’s schools and through the Maples Academy for the last few years and the way in which he took his try set a sparkling example to his young adherents.

Receiving the ball in midfield, he first brushed off the challenge of Stringer before bulldozing over Clancy and producing a powerful fend on the final defender to carry over the line.

Parker slotted the conversion and the half ended at 14-6.

In the second half, the Storm’s indiscipline eventually cost them as Shane Cusack was sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes. Moments later, Ben Blair, the Buccaneers No. 8 and captain took advantage of the numbers mismatch to thunder over for a try which closed the gap to only 3 points.

Just as it seemed a real fightback was on, though, a harum-scarum passage of play with multiple turnovers eventually led to a breakaway score for the Storm’s Tim Cone down the left wing. While the conversion was missed, the lead now stood at 8 points, leaving the Buccs requiring two scores.

A second yellow card for the Storm (this time it was Greaves) opened the door for a tight finish and, with Clancy having departed injured, Hayward slotted the three points, but this was to be the final score and the Storm’s fairytale ending to the season was secure.

The focus at the Rugby Club now moves to the RHSW National Men’s XV and their upcoming series of World Cup Qualifiers, while the Borelli Walsh Cayman National Sevens will shortly depart for Hong Kong.