Sidebar over-Choi’ed by semi win

| 05/06/2013

(CRFU): It was semi-final day in the KRyS Global National Mixed Touch Rugby Championships 2013 in the play-offs to determine who will go through to the Grand Final. It was time to step up to the plate, show who is boss, lay down a marker and leave it all on the pitch. Several other maxims were considered for this introduction but you can have too much of a good thing and less is definitely more. SteppingStones made their way into the final with a hard fought win over Heineken Brew Crew in a display that showed both all that is good about their team but also the dark underbelly of their collective psyche. This game also gave us arguably the best individual performance of the season but more of that later.

SteppingStones 10 Heineken Brew Crew 6

SteppingStones are the closest thing to a Terminator that Cayman touch rugby has. They are relentless in their pursuit of their prey I mean “goal” of being crowned National Touch Rugby Champions 2013. Such is their singular focus that they dominate the opposition and even when their challenger has dared to contest the game they have risen to the task to ensure victory. Of course, having the strongest squad in the League helps greatly so even when key players are absent they are replaced with players of a similar ability. In this they are like a Manchester United, a US Dream Team, or the New Zealand All Blacks of Cayman Touch Rugby.

Favourites going into the game SteppingStones got off to a good start with two quick tries from Rudolf Weder. This settled any early nerves but then they hadn’t appreciated the threat Heineken posed from one player. Biancca Johnson.

There have been some truly great individual sporting performances which have gone down in sporting history for their ability to define a player, a team, a sport. There was Jonah Lomu’s destruction of England in the 1995 rugby World Cup semi-final; Diego Maradona’s single-handed (no pun intended) destruction of England in the 1986 football World Cup ( hang on, there’s a bit of a theme developing here); Ian Poulter’s sheer tenacity in the face of defeat which inspired the Europe team to the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history; and of course, Ian “Beefy” Botham destroyed the star-laden Australians in the Ashes at Headingley 1981, each performance worthy of the term “brilliant”. 

Here in Cayman, we saw our own piece of brilliance with a performance that truly had the crowd out of their seats and applauding. Biancca Johnson of Heineken Brew Crew gave arguably the best individual performance of the season and I would happily argue with anyone who would disagree with me. True, others have scored more tries in one game (Riley Mullen of SIDEbar scored seven, Neil Montgomery and Simon Raftopolous from Genesis Trust and SteppingStones respectively have scored six). Johnson only scored five but let’s put this into perspective. Truly great performances are all about context. This was a National semi-final, the opponent the overwhelming tournament favourites and her team was shorn up some of its most dynamic runners. And yet, there she was like a terrier chewing on the leg of an errant postman refusing to allow SteppingStones the luxury of a comfortable lead.

Her tries, scored at regular intervals, meant the ‘Stones were always looking over their shoulders. What did they see? A team in green hanging onto its coat-tails with all the strength it could muster. SteppingStones would score one or two tries and then Johnson would magic up a reply. Her first two tries were right out of the top drawer – you know the one, the one where you keep all your special little nick-nacks (and I’m not talking about the little fella in the Bond classic Man With The Golden Gun either. To keep him in a drawer would just be cruel). She has the most sublime dummy pass coupled with a change of direction and pace. Not once but twice she sold the most outrageous of dummies to break the defensive line and score, playing Ray Galettly in particular like a cheap guitar.  But poor old Ray was not alone in falling for her rugby charms. She slalomed through the defense like Alberto Tomba or, more flatteringly, like Lindsey Vonn. The effect was notable – the frustration in the ‘Stones was marked. In total, three players were sin-binned from the proceedings for dissent to the referee, the dark side of the ‘Stones coming to the surface. As each try was scored the crowd became more animated willing the underdogs on.

Sadly, it was not enough. Any team filled with the likes of Morgan Shelver (3), Simon Raftopolous (3) and James “Roger” Waters (2) are going to be very hard to beat. And so it proved. SteppingStones ran out winners but all knew they had seen an individual performance of the highest quality. The Stones are in the final and their quarry is within sight. Who would bet against them to take the title? Not me.

SIDEBAR NWNT 8 Genesis Trust 5

In August 480 BC King Leonidas famously took three hundred of his finest Spartan soldiers to Thermopylae to battle the massed ranks of the Persian army led by King Xerxes. It has become the stuff of legend when so few have stood defiant against so many. Their courage, their daring, their sheer bloody-mindedness to refuse defeat was immortalised in the motion picture “300”, where Gerard Butler, resplendent in leather thong and all buff and shiny muscles, led his men ultimately to defeat in what some have called a conceptual art homoerotic movie that plays fast and loose with the facts.

Well in May 2013 AD we got our own version of the Leonidas story but hopefully I won’t play fast and loose with the facts. SIDEbar NWNT took to the field against the marauding hordes of Genesis Trust with a squad ravaged by absence and injury.  On that day, just seven brave warriors (with only six on the pitch at any one time) faced off against a mighty foe. In spite of the loss of a couple of players, Genesis have been in fine form of late and would surely have the ingenuity, know-how and numbers to break down a defence that through sheer unrelenting relentlessness(!) must buckle and breach. However, on this day a different ending began to unfold. Instead of Spartans read SIDEbar-ians. Instead, of King Leonidas read King Jyoti of Choi (but without the buff and shiny muscles, I can’t comment on the leather thong).

And there was nothing effeminate about this team. All stood firm, with muscles flexed and with breathing heavy as they gasped for air, they beat back the advancing enemy. Neil Montgomery, playing Xerxes in this little vignette, cajoled and directed his troops but could find no way through as their attacks crashed on the rocks of SIDEbar’s granite defence.

It was the brave Nic Swartz who fired the first arrow of doubt into the heart of Genesis when he ran clear to score the opening try. The crowd wondered if an upset was on the cards. Surely not. Then Adam Huckle, his big super-guns on display and glistening with sweat, added a second and the crowd began to contemplate the impossible. Genesis was stunned but Montgomery was having none of it. He launched a counter-offensive that took the first SIDEbarian casualty – a try conceded. But Leonidas, I mean Choi, can be a feisty fellow and found a deadly reposte with rapier-like thrusts through the Genesis defensive shield.

A half-time score of 4-1 to SIDEbar was an admirable performance but did anyone in the crowd truly believe they couldhang on? Indeed, for that matter, did anyone in SIDEbar truly believe? I must confess I was an un-believer.

These games are forty minutes long and that is a long time to do shuttle runs up and down a rugby pitch. Fatigue must take its toll. But then, the miraculous happened. Choi scored another, then another and then another. As each one dotted over the white line you could almost physically see energy drain from Genesis, siphoned into the SIDEbar gas tank. The bodies must have been shot through but the mind stayed strong. Wave after wave of Genesis attack faltered and the game became more and more frantic as the scoreboard went away from them – it was now 7-1 to SIDEbar.

True, Genesis Trust was missing some key players but they should have been strong enough. The seconds turned into minutes and still they could not score. But then, the tipping point came. Nancy Lewis scored her first try of the season and from this unlikely source the Genesis troops gained succour and poured forward. Montgomery added two more and Roger Priaulx got one but, like Rocky Balboa against Apollo Creed and though out on their feet, SIDEbar continued to trade scores until the final victory was won 8-5. Seven warriors or rather seven SIDEbarian warriors had stood firm and defeated a worthy adversary.

It is said NO GUTS NO GLORY and SIDEbar have fine intestinal fortitude and they deserve their glory! Let the history books know the names of this Magnificent Seven for they will be remembered as the stuff of touch rugby legend. Jyoti Choi. Jo Remillard. Nic Swartz. Jo Ziegler. Adam Huckle. Chandra Friesen. Jayme Farrell. I salute you. In defeat Leonidas famously shouted “This is SPARTA!” In Victory, Choi could justifiably cry, “THIS… IS… SIDEBAR!” The final now beckons and I’m sure the Seven are hoping for reinforcements to arrive… and quickly!

And for Genesis Trust – I have eulogized about this team and they have had great moments this season. However, it is to the third place play-off they must go. Magnanimous in defeat Montgomery said, “The team showed a lot of heart but unfortunately we made too many defensive errors which were exploited by SIDEbar NWNT who delivered a clinical touch rugby performance.”

Choi added, “We had to be disciplined, maintain our composure and communicate effectively. Our set plays had to be precise against a very capable opponent… but we were absolutely sh*gged at the end!”.

STOP PRESS! MAGIC GLOVES UPDATE SHOCKER – Hold the back page. The Magic Gloves are in the bin. Jerry “What’s Glove Got To Do With It” Beck ditched the magic gloves once he realised the stitching around the fingers was loose. They were literally coming apart at the seams. This, in turn, became a metaphor for a relationship that had hit the rocks. With no repair offered they were left on the scrapheap. Indeed, Beck was seen hand-in-glove with a new pair of shiny black and white gloves during the course of this match. The Magic Gloves were unavailable for comment on this infidelity but I think we are looking at divorce rather than trial separation. Not a patch on his Magic Gloves this new pair brought no luck to Beck at all and time will only tell how long before they too are discarded like an old pair of …er… gloves.


The undercard game was a generally light-hearted affair as these two teams were playing off for the Wooden Spoon. DART, with a couple of new “short-term” signings, dominated the game both in terms of territory, possession and most importantly on the scoreboard.

Niall O’Sullivan was the star man for DART with a magic five try haul confirming why he has been missed so much during the course of the season. With a leg turnover rate of 86.7 cycles/minute he has quite the turn of pace for a big fella and with his trademark show-and-go dummy thrown in he went through the KPMG defence like a dose of Montezuma’s Revenge. After his fifth solo try KPMG were certainly sick of the sight of him.
Ruan Van Vuuren, whose name may look like an explosion in a Vowel Factory, blasted holes in the opposition and banged in a couple of tries of his own.  His enthusiasm and energy is to be commended and with one game left in the season DART will be looking for a strong finish.

Andrew Edwards and Ian Roberton scored for KPMG who will be all the better for the knowledge they have gained in this tough rookie season for many of their squad. So, KPMG win the Wooden Spoon as they sadly finish 7th in the league. Still, it’s always good to win something at the end of the season eh?!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Sports

About the Author ()

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    Greek mythology, magical gloves, biting satire? – not many others could get all this and more into a sports report. Nice one!