Cayman leaves it late against USA South

| 03/01/2012

Picture1 (248x300).jpg(CRFU): The Cayman Islands Rugby Football Union continued a rich vein of form against their bigger, more powerful American neighbors on Monday, 2 January  (having recently triumphed over the USA South Men’s VII’s team in Barbados 19-14 on November 12 in Barbados) with a slim 16-15 win over the USA South U21 Panthers on home soil.  The Panthers arrived on island via cruise early Monday morning with the cream of rugby talent from the Southeast United States. The U21 Panthers, thought to contain as many as eight former junior Eagles as well as a number of top prospects looking to be nominated to the full USA Junior World Trophy squad for 2012 were obvious favorites to beat the young Caymanians. (Photos Caroline Deegan)

USA Rugby South is the territorial union for teams playing in the Southern United States. It is one of seven union's that govern specific regions of USA Rugby and is comprised of the North Carolina Rugby Football Union, the Georgia Rugby Union, the Palmetto Rugby Union, the Deep South Rugby Football Union, the Florida Rugby Football Union and the MidSouth Rugby Football Union.

Kicking off in front of a large crowd at the South Sound rugby pitch the Cayman U21’s started strongly and had the first opportunity at points when awarded a kickable penalty but with strong southern winds the usually sure footed Robbie Cribb pushed the ball wide.

Cribb later made up for the mistake when full back Joel Clark and inside centre Mike Wilson made inroads against a flailing Panther backline to bring up the opening try of the game but Cribb was again wayward with the conversion to make the score 5-0. The Panthers quickly responded with a kickable penalty of their own from Nick Vidger to make the score line 5-3.

As the American’s gathered pace it looked as though their size and strength would swamp the Cayman U21’s and indeed the Panther forward pack dominated the set piece. The Cayman front row struggled against a far more experienced front 3 and the Cayman lineout misfired time and time again especially after hooker Daniel McGrath was substituted after only 20 minutes still suffering from the ill effects of food poisoning picked up over Christmas break.

The Panthers scored again to take the lead before the half with a Dillon Sauerwein converted try to take the game to 5-10.

Cayman soon responded with another kickable penalty from Cribb to bring the game to within 2 points but by this stage Cayman were wondering why they did not have a more comfortable lead. The strong winds were plaguing Cribb’s kicking and with the Panther’s seemingly willing to give ample opportunity for shots a goal with a host of penalties within their own half the Panthers knew that they were lucky to have the lead after 40 minutes.

The Panthers extended their lead further in the second half as Tristan Gray crossed the line out wide after a long period of Panther phase play against some dogged Caymanian defense to take the score line to 8-15.

With the heat taking its toll on all the players fresh Caymanian legs were brought on to change the tide and bolster the Cayman pack and back line. The Changes did the trick as Cayman again pressured the Panthers in their own half and were rewarded yet again with a kickable penalty which Cribb slotted to take the score to 11-15. The Caymanian momentum continued to build as the seconds ticked away and once again the quick feet of Joel Clark broke the Panther’s defensive ranks and the crowd went into rapture as it looked as though Jeffrey Robinson had scored a decisive try close to the posts to once again take the lead for Cayman but the try was disallowed and a penalty was awarded to the Panthers as Robinson had made 2 movements on the ground to cross the line.

Picture5 (300x209).jpgThe call was a heartbreaker for the Caymanians and it looked as though the game would end with a score line in favor of the American’s but the never say die attitude of the young Cayman team saw out the a tense final 2 minutes as a scrum close to the Panther’s try line was secured by the Cayman forwards and a dummy pass from Robbie Cribb sent him through to put the winning points on the board 16-15. The missed conversion would have given some breathing space for the Cayman team but in the end it wasn’t needed as some feverish defense from the Caymanians wound down the clock and the final whistle was blown.

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