Cayman place 3rd in Florida touch championship

| 19/03/2012

P2250035 (276x300).jpg(CRFU): There are many great rugby tours that have gone down in folklore for the exploits of those brave souls that represent their homeland against the marauding hordes in their own backyard. Thoughts spring immediately to the British and Irish Lions tours of New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa in 1997. On both occasions they were given little hope against the best teams in the world, and yet managed to defy the odds and return victorious.

Similarly, but with no less a feat of human achievement, there was the stunning victory of the Isleworth Grammar School U16’s, where a certain flame-haired young winger, who later went on to infamy writing touch rugby articles in the Caribbean, side-stepped his way round the entire backline of Tadchester 1st XV’s to record a sensational hat-trick of tries that the local Gazette described as, “not too shabby for a little lad.”

It’s funny how some things stick in the memory.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I turn to the sterling efforts of the Cayman Pirates at the 4th annual International Touch Rugby Tournament 2012 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There is an old adage in rugby that says, “What goes on tour, stays on tour”.  This, by definition, is problematic for a journalist so I will have to break just a little with tradition and give you the edited highlights.

Thirteen wide-eyed and finely-honed athletes made up the squad to represent the Cayman Islands. Inspirationally captained by Sharlee Henshaw, the Cayman Pirates took to the field for their first game of the day against Fort Lauderdale B. Playing against the odds and with half the team getting lost on the way to the ground (insert suitable conspiracy theory here) the Pirates’ played well and recorded an honourable 3-3 tie. Riley Mullen was pivotal, running in three tries and laying down a marker for the rest of the tournament.

With a full squad available for the second game, the Cayman Pirates led D.C. by 1-0 at the break. Neil “Monty” Montgomery was starting to pull the strings for Cayman. He scored the first and was instrumental in setting up tries for Sharlee Henshaw and Richard Gordon in the second half. However, D.C. demonstrated that they had plenty of mettle and increasingly built the pressure on the Pirates’ throughout the second half. After scoring to make it 3-2, D.C. added a third in the dying seconds to hold the Pirates’ to their second 3-3 draw.  

The Pirates’ third game was against pre-tournament favourites Fort Lauderdale A. They showed the Pirates’ a clean pair of heels and ran out 0-3 winners.  Only some desperate defending by Joan Murphy and Marc Randall kept the score down and it showed that the Pirates would have to rack it up a gear or two if they were going to progress in the tournament.  And they did. After a break in proceedings to take advantage of some of the isotonic drinks on offer, the Pirates’ stepped up for their final group game against Palm Beach. Determined ball-carrying by Joanne Ziegler, Chandra Friesen and Michelle Bailey put Palm Beach on the back foot as Cayman controlled the game for large parts. Neil Montgomery was growing into his role as playmaker and pulled the Palm Beach defence in all directions. Sharlee Henshaw scored both of the Pirates’ tries, one in each half, with assists from Montgomery and Gordon.

Although there was no bonus point gained it was a thoroughly satisfying performance, and the result put the Pirates’ into the Third Place Play-off.

The best performance of the day was saved for their final game. By a quirk of fate, they were pitched against Palm Beach once more and it was clear that Palm Beach, wounded by their defeat in the final group game, was out to reverse that result.  In order to offset this threat, the Pirates’ went through some pre-game visualization techniques and then went out and performed like they know they can.  Richard Gordon, who had previously been frustrated by his inability to burst through a gap all day, threw the most outrageous of dummies and ran clear leaving the Palm Beach defence standing.

Dave Bailey, immense in defense, positively reveled in throwing himself around for last-ditch touches that both frustrated his opponents and inspired his teammates. Imbued with new confidence, the Pirates’ threw the ball around and Montgomery set up Mark Robson for the easiest of touchdowns to make it 2-0. Gordon scored the third, when Montgomery threw a delightful back-of-the-hand pass – a try truly made on the Highveld of South Africa. Mullen added the fourth before Steve Henshaw scored the Try of the Day. Marauding like the great pirate Captain Blackbeard himself, he ran half the length of the pitchto score by the corner flag, chased all the way by the speedy female winger from Palm Beach. The final score was 5-1.

Fort Lauderdale A went to beat D.C. in the final by 5-3. The Cayman Pirates had won a worthy 3rd place in the tournament, a great result for a fine team. The tournament was a rousing success and all the teams are looking forward to next year when they can challenge each other once again.


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