Cayman 39-17 Mexico
Despite heavy downpours, about 800 people turned out Saturday to watch the RHSW Cayman National XV historically defeat the Mexican National XV at the Health City Cayman Big Game 8 held at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in George Town.
The Mexican team, Rugby America’s North incumbent champions, were heavy favorites to take home their third win of the season and march undefeated to the RAN finals to face Guyana, who secured their place in the finals with a 24-17 win over Trinidad and Tobago on June 10.
Mexico had defeated USA Rugby South, 36-29, and Bermuda, 7-59, while Cayman had only managed to beat Bermuda, 15-28, and lose to USA Rugby South, 39-5.
In wet conditions, the game started as expected with Mexico getting on the score board within 2 minutes, as wing Luis Arredondo scored in the corner after some strong phase play by the Mexican team.
Cayman responded quickly with a penalty kick from Morgan Hayward to bring the game within 2 points.
The local boys spent long periods of time in the Mexican half, pressuring the visitors, and looked close to getting the next score, but instead gifted Mexican winger Fharid Samano made an interception followed an 80-meter chase down the pitch. With no Caymanians able to stop the towering speedster, Mexico earned another 5 points. The easy conversion in front of the posts made the score 3-12 for Mexico.
Not broken by the score against the run of play, Cayman marched back again into the Mexico half and Cayman tight head prop Johnny Gibson scored under the posts a few phases after a “tap-n-go’ penalty. Morgan Hayward added the extras to make the score 10-12.
As the teams started to settle into the game, Mexico again scored through their winger Samano to make the score 10-17 after a clean line out (a rarity in this game for the Mexicans) was fed out wide, and some simple interchanges in the Mexico backline opened up the space for Samano to crash over Cayman’s try line.
A strong response from the Cayman forward pack – who by this time were starting to assert their dominance over a large Mexican pack – lead to a try for Cayman No. 8 Ben Blair who picked from the back of a scrum to again bring the score back to within 2 points. Morgan Shelver, who by now had taken the kicking duties from the injured Morgan Hayward, was unable to make the conversion which would have evened the scores.
Halftime: Cayman 15-17 Mexico
A few changes up front for Cayman at halftime started to change the balance of the game as the Mexican team, still focused on their strong back line were clearly suffering at set piece time. The Mexican scrum was faltering under sustained Cayman pressure and the Mexicans were struggling to win regular clean ball from their own lineouts. Morgan Shelver and Eddie Westin for Cayman were also testing the Mexican back 3 with high kicks and the wet ball was causing havoc for the visitors.
Cayman took the lead for the first time in the game thanks again to another big effort from the Cayman forwards to give Ben Blair his second try off the back of the scrum, and with Shelver adding the extras, Cayman were 22-17 up and starting to smell an upset in the air.
More changes to the Cayman pack brought on youngsters Alex Pineau and Andy Hall (making his Men’s Cayman XVs debut).
Cayman added more points from Shelver’s boot in what was quickly becoming the “Cayman Show” to make the score 25-17. Further changes to the Cayman pack saw Peter de Vere and Joseph Westin added to the fray, and what was already a dominant scrum stepped up a notch with fresh legs. A penalty try from a Cayman Scrum for continual offside infringements by the Mexicans made the score 32-17, and although there were still glimpses of the danger threat from the Mexican backline, Cayman were able to add a further converted try thanks to Joseph Westin to make the final score 39-17.
24 unanswered points for Cayman in the second half brought the Cayman crowd – which included Governor Helen Kilpatrick – to their feet, and sealed a very big win for the Islands.
Despite the historic result, Cayman ended the tournament equal with Mexico on points, and it is USA Rugby South who goes to the final against Guyana, having attained maximum league points for their forfeit win over Bermuda on the same day as Cayman’s win.
While Cayman’s season may now be over, they still enjoy some changes to their American and world rankings. In the Rugby Americas rankings Cayman moved up to 11th, while Mexico fell from 9th to 12th. In World Rugby rankings Cayman jumped two spots, from 57th to 55th, while Mexico dropped six spots, from 50th to 56th.
RHSW Cayman 39
- Tries: Gibson, Blair (2), Penalty, J. Westin
- Conversions: Hayward, Shelver (2)
- Penalties: Hayward; Shelver
- Tries: Arredondo, Samano (2)
- Conversions: Carner.