Cayman wins nail-biter over Bermuda

It was a nail-biting finish at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Saturday, 9 June, as the Cayman Islands held on for a 20-19 win over rivals Bermuda in Health City Big Game 9.

First half tries by Killian Everard and Jonny Gibson gave Cayman Islands a 10-0 lead at one stage, which was reduced to a three-point advantage at the interval of their 2018 Rugby Americas North qualifier.

Bermuda mounted a comeback with a series of kicks in the second half and taking a 16-10 advantage.

A fumble by Iain Currie short of the goal line midway through the half saw Cayman lamenting what would have been a certain try to retake the lead. Nonetheless, they press on and took a 17-16 lead thanks to a penalty try.

The visitors then took a 19-17 edge but with about 15 minutes left to play, the crowd was whipped into a frenzy when a kick gave the hosts a one-point edge that never looked safe with Bermuda eager to claw back in a half that had already seen four lead changes.

In the end, it was Cayman celebrating in front of their adoring fans when referee Lee Bryant, a member of the US National Referees Panel, blew the whistle one last time.

“I don’t think I’ve got any nails left,” Cayman Islands head coach Gary Southway said afterward. “But credit to Bermuda. They hung in there for the first 20 minutes and then they came strong and we couldn’t seem to hold onto the ball. We went through one or two phases, dropped the ball.”

It was not the prettiest of games style-wise but Southway was pleased with the result.  “I think it was a record for a number of scrums in a game but I’m very proud of the lads. Winning the game [whether by] one point or by 10 points or 40 points, a win is a win,” he said.

However, he identified work needed to strengthen their performance going forward. “I think we really struggled to hold on to the ball today…it was though the ball was a bar of soap. We’ve just got to be patient, catch the ball and go through our phases and we’re very capable.”

Bermuda captain Peter Dunkerley gave this assessment. “It was a fantastic game. Cayman were excellent. I was extremely proud of the Bermuda boys. They looked like they had lost it within the first 10 minutes [but] we came back very well, dug deep and I’m so proud of some of those individuals’ performances.”

He also gave credit to the hundreds of cheering fans who packed into the grandstand for the game. “It’s really great to play rugby in front of a vocal, passionate crowd. That’s why we play. We play because we love the game, we play not for money or anything like that…and we love having people like you come and watch, and cheer and boo. It’s not bad being a pantomime villain at times,” Dunkerley said.

Cayman’s next game is scheduled for 7 July away against USA South. A home game against Trinidad and Tobago on 23 June was scrapped after the southern Caribbean side withdrew from the competition.

Cayman Islands team:

Chris Kennedy (capt), Ben Blair (vice-capt), Andy Hall, Jonny Gibson, Shane Cusack, Jeffrey Robinson, Shane Westin, David Stringer, Morgan Shelver, Iain Currie, Phil Parker, Venasio Tokatokavanua, Justin Wight, Killian Everard. Subs: Richard Adams, Dan Florek, Peter De Vere, Dylan Bostock, Mark Soto, Robbie Cribb, Morgan Hayward, Ian Smith, Barry John Goude.

Special thanks to Amy Strzalko Photography for the photos.

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