Stepping stones trample over five nations

| 26/06/2012

week1a (204x300).jpg(CRFU): This summer of sport just gets better and better. The Euro 2012 Championships, the Olympics, Wimbledon Tennis and now to cap it all the Cayman Summer Touch Rugby League has kicked off in style. Twenty-six teams and over 350 players will compete in three divisions for honour, for pride, for glory, for trophies and to “touch” immortality. The opening game of the new season confronted the old with the new. The old in the burgeoning girth of the venerable Genesis Five Nations, the new in the form of the slim and trim young upstarts from Stepping Stones.  Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of two of last year’s best Division 1 teams, Stepping Stones have amassed a powerful squad to challenge the omnipresent duopoly of summer touch that has been Maples1 (the Champions) and Genesis Five Nations. (Photo  Caroline Deegan)

This “new kid on the block” will no doubt have a significant bearing on the title this year but only time will tell if they are to be the Jordan Knight (the handsome one) or the Danny Wood (remember him – the useless one?) of touch rugby.

Genesis Five Nations rely on a tried and tested formula of straight up hits mixed with a bit of Venassio Toketokevanua magic. However, as the match progressed and after an early Phil Fourie score for them the Stones defence started to get on top. Riley Mullen, as if a cross between a whippet and a bloodhound, was on Toketokevanua’s trail and followed his scent all over the park. Tenacious and resolute in his task, Mullen blunted the Five Nations’ main strike weapon forcing the great man down blind alleys and into increasingly desperate plays.

In attack, Stepping Stones started to get their shift together. Ray Galletly began to dictate play. Strutting like a modern-day Napoleon, he promenaded in front of the Genesis Five Nations defence, parading the ball before them as if it were the spoils of war.  Goading them to break their ranks he would tease and torment them and, ably supported by his trusty henchman Steve Henshaw, then burst through the defensive line causing chaos.  One particular cannonball-like pass out of the back of his hand nearly took Mullen’s head off who did well to catch the ball and dive over the line for the score.

However, the try of the game came from Genesis Five Nations’ Caroline Deegan. Like Moses, but without the beard, she parted the Stones defence like the Red Sea. Showcasing her customary outrageous show-and-go dummy pass, Deegan sent defenders to the left and defenders to the right. By the time the gap had closed she’d already crossed the line, put the ball down and was jogging back to the halfway line, taking the plaudits from her teammates and the crowd alike.

As Genesis Five Nations pressed the game to catch up on the scoreboard uncharacteristic handling errors started to show. This was quickly followed by some characteristic heated in-house deliberations on their defensive failings. In the end, they ran out of puff and ran out of ideas as Stepping Stones ran out worthy 6-5 winners.

Maples1 start the season in defence of their title. A winner for the last three years, their mantelpiece is awash with silverware however Captain Marty Livingston has made some notable changes to his squad. The return of key playmaker Mike McGrath will no doubt be a boost. The champions looked ring rusty in the early exchanges with balls going to ground a little too often. But as the game progressed the wizened old heads of seasoned campaigners such as Livingston and Jo Ziegler, coupled with the whizz of Jyoti Choi and the fizz of McGrath, they started to achieve some fluidity and moved the ball around with increasing zip.

KPMG1 are a work in progress with many players mere fledglings in touch rugby terms. Commendation must go to their leader Neil Montgomery. Like a 5’6” Duracell Bunny but with slightly smaller ears, this man singularly drives his team forward and keeps them going. He runs, passes, dummies, side-steps, passes, runs some more and scores all day long. He pulls the strings and packs the punches. It is exhausting just to watch him such is the effort he puts in. His teammates cannot be faulted for their efforts either but experience is essential and they were just out-manoeuvered and out-played. A three-try haul for Choi, with extras added by Livingston, Ziegler, Joan Murphy and Marc Fagan, Maples1 recorded an 8-2 result to start the campaign with a win.

DART have stepped up a Division this year and it will be a steep learning curve for this team of valiant triers. For their first game against Maples2 they added some sage wisdom to their ranks and some beef to their bones with new recruits Marcus Cumber and Mat Bishop. The loss of last season’s top try scorer, Neal Ainscow to long term injury, will be a massive blow to their fluidity in attack and scramble defence but it gives the others a chance to shine and take on the burden of responsibility. Similarly Maples2 have found themselves elevated to Division 1 but in their case they have a few more experienced touch players who, whilst lacking in sonic pace, have sound basic skills mixed with a sprinkling of space dust.

The first half was a tight affair with both teams trying to find a rhythm but the deadlock was broken by a cheeky inside-out break from Mark Robson who sliced through the DART defence like a cold knife through butter. DART picked up the pace and Bishop, unsurprisingly, popped up on the right wing to equalize. Sophia Dilbert and Marc Randall stretched the Maples2 lead at the break but the standout try came from Marcus Cumber who, straight from the restart, ran through the entire Maples2 defence to score in the corner. Stung by this defensive lapse Maples2 started to exert more pressure both in attack and defence and added further tries from Joan Murphy, Randall and Finn Hegarty.

The final score 7-2 to Maples2. 

Trident Titans started the season with a good win over a much depleted Ogier team. Highly mobile and with good handling Trident Titans put on a tryfest, a veritable avalanche of scores. Dean Curtis, Brad Stephenson, Phil Fourie, Nic Swartz, Riley Mullen and Lisa Bird all scored in a 12-1 rout.  Jacqui Davis of the Trident Titans was given the MVP award for an outstanding performance.

DIVISION 2

New to Division 2 this year is Broadhurst. Their first match-up was against the Heineken Light Maidens. Resplendent in purple and accompanied by matching 80’s style purple headbands, Broadhurst took to the field looking like the illegitimate offspring of a drunken one-night threesome involving Olivia Newton-John, Mark Knopfler and Prince. Miss Newton-John would be proud of her progeny as they aerobicized their way around the pitch working up quite a sweat. Playing touch rugby as if “Let’s Get Physical” was their melodious mantra they defended the Heineken Light Maidens attacks with exuberance and enthusiasm whilst working out some nice moves themselves.

The Heineken Light Maidens, an all-female troupe of touch lovelies, know a thing or two about how to handle a rugby ball. All are vastly experienced and know exactly how to manipulate an opponent to the point of both delirium and confusion. And so it was with Jo Ziegler, Lisa Kehoe and Sharlee Henshaw. Sweet interplay and passing had the headbanded Broadhurst defence in dire straits, pulling them from one side to the other creating space for overlaps and try scoring opportunities.

On more than one occasion the try scorer simply had catch the pass and touch the ball down as the Broadhurst defence had retreated beyond its own try-line. This defensive naivety is to be expected for a new team and they eventually showed signs of improved co-ordination – not just in the matching shirts and headbands but between players too.  Jason Scarff and Richard Lewis made some telling line breaks but it was Roz Glanfield who shone on her season debut. She seemed omnipresent in the Broadhurst defence and contributed to the attacks achieving the first MVP award for her team. Eventually the

Maidens ran out 7-3 winners.

When quizzed after the game, Broadhurst Captain Kate McClymont said, “We are a new team and everyone is very keen. We’ll only get better and the headbands give us a team unity that can make a difference. Say it loud, we’re purple and proud!”

Campbells beat Rawlinson & Hunter 5-4. Jerry Beck made an effervescent debut and big Jonny Lewis made a couple of telling breaks that resulted in crucial scores. Beck, along with Marcus Cumber, Nicky White and Karen Hart made the vital touchdowns. For R&H the Proud family, Conrad and Julie, did their team …erm… proud by scoring 3 out of their 4 tries, Alex Pineau adding the fourth.

Deloitte and Walkers Blue Iguanas shared a 3-3 draw. Playing with four girls and two guys, Walkers Blue Iguanas held their own against a lively Deloitte team who had Al Lum at the heart of their best moves. The Iguanas try scorers James Melen (2) and Perry Levy (1) was answered by one a-piece from Lum, Lawrence Usher and Dave Acutt. MVP Vikky Piaso was inspirational in her never-say-die approach to touch rugby.

Harmonic demolished an understrength DMS 11-0. Having gone all of last season without a single victory Harmonic had more players available this time than ever before. When they have a full team out they can trouble many teams in a higher Division with the likes of Tim Rossiter, Rob Aspinall, Brad Cowdroy and Scott McCarty on show. DMS will have to have a fresh look at their roster to see how they can improve otherwise it will be a long season for them.

In the late game, UBS and Island Heritage played out a gritty if not pretty 2-2 draw. MVP Brandon Smith and Wayne Morgan scored for Island Heritage, Stuart Reed and Jimmy Aiken replied for UBS.

DIVISION 3

Delta Force lived up to their name with a special ops assassination of Grizz and his gay (as in merry) band of pink shirted Old Fellas’. Chief marksman was Justin “deadly” Vasquez who crossed the white-wash a walloping six times. Admittedly the target on an Old Fellas’ shirt is getting bigger year on year, but this Mossad-style “Raid on En-tubby” was a quick and clinical kill. Christian Victory showed that the Good Lord does work in mysterious ways as he scored twice in reply – Victory that is, not the Good Lord – He just gets the assist. Other Force scorers included Jyoti Choi, Frank Butterworth, Eric St. Cyr, and Chandra Friesen. Final score 12-2 to the Force.

Zolfo Cooper, newbies to the Summer Touch Rugby community, opened their account with a close 3-2 win over GCM. Katherine Maw was outstanding in her ball handling and defence and rightly won the MVP award. Tries from Tom Eliot and two from Marc Randall, were answered by one each from Colin Travers and Adam Cullen for GCM.

KPMG2 took on LIME in a close fought game where the final result was in doubt right up to the end. However, it was the pace of Ian Roberton (3) and guile of Miguel Lopez (2) that squeezed the juices out of LIME. With another added by Andrew Edwards, KPMG2 pipped LIME 6-5. Eamon Wilson, Barnaby Richardson, Jeffrey Robinson, and Eva Hartnett scored for LIME.

In the final game, Credit Suisse relied on “Beauty and the Beast” or rather “Beauties and the Beasts” to see off a gallant Ernst & Young team 8 to 5 – the former in the shape of Erica McDonald and Stacey Ottenbreit with one try each, the latter in the bulk of Dave Bailey (3), Ben McDonald, and Mick Kehoe (2). Jonny Lewis and Ronan McCarthy replied for Ernst & Young.

Photo: Liam Welfar of the Delta Group tries to outfox Stacey Otenbriet of DART.

Category: Sports

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  1. Anonymous says:

    great article – funny, informative and clearly understands his subject.