Future of Cayman rugby looks bright

| 27/05/2015
Cayman News Service

Roger Cockhill (in red) seizes a loose ball for Cayman

(CNS): Cayman Junior Rugby took a record travelling party of more than 70 players to the Bahamas for the Freeport Junior Rugby Festival 2015 to play against teams from Freeport Rugby Club and Nassau Rugby Club. The teams represented were Under 19s, Under 14s, Under 12s and the Under 10s.

This is the fifth year that Cayman Junior Rugby has visited Freeport Rugby Club, which hosted this full weekend of junior rugby. The players have been training all season for this tour and what is clear is that Cayman has produced some outstanding talent in all age groups.

Under 19s’ Coach Justin Wight was impressed with his team as they gained confidence throughout their three games. Focusing on developing game experience and knowledge, a lot of these boys are new to the game of rugby or are playing up a few age groups. What was crystal clear is that there is a lot of potential in this group as there is plenty of raw talent to be honed.

In their three games against Freeport Rugby they lost their first (5-10), won the second (21-17) and drew the third (22-22) against much bigger and more experienced opposition. Initially slow to the breakdown, the team improved in this aspect but the support play was superb and the main reason for the majority of the Cayman tries came through an ability to offload in contact to teammates running excellent supporting lines.

Aiden Clements controlled the game very well from scrum-half with Tre Mason, Finn Galway, Michael Matthews, Liam Kay and Kevin Weber creative behind the breakdown. Matthews and Dajon Sibblies were ferocious at the breakdown, making multiple turnovers. Jacob Pierre and Tommy Sperandeo rattled plenty of Bahamian bones in the tackle, whilst JoJo Sperandeo made a number of try-saving tackles covering as sweeper. Abdul Patterson showed great footwork to bamboozle many an opponent whilst the top try scorers were Maurice Rocket-McLaughlin (rocket by name, rocket by nature) and Alexander Thompson.

Coach Wight said, “The best part of being on tour is the bond that you build with those players around you. It was fun to see new players build that brotherhood with one another.”

The Under 14s continued their hold over Freeport, going undefeated for the fifth year in a row against this opposition. These boys have been playing together for a long time and have developed an almost telepathic understanding of their own game. Comfortable with ball in hand, they were outstanding across the whole team whether it was strength and aggression in the forwards, great passing from the half-backs or outright speed and agility from the back line.

They came up with two fine victories on the Saturday games against Freeport. Playing 12-a-side, with contested scrums and line-outs, this was to prove the most competitive rugby these boys have ever played. It was a big step up but coaches Chris Rowland and Mick Kehoe have trained them superbly.

Cayman News Service

(L-R) Jonny Robson, Harry Bishop and Barnaby Richardson from Cayman Under 10s (in grey) tackle a Freeport player

Cayman won the first game 17-5, but the second was a huge challenge and Freeport gave everything. It was the toughest match faced by this group, which has been together since the Under 8s. Such is the camaraderie that has developed along with their adherence to the defensive shape, ability to tackle, turnover ball at the breakdown and ability to move the ball quickly, that they came through with flying colours. Freeport stepped up the pressure and took a lead early in the second half but Cayman showed great character to come back and win by a convincing margin of 24-12.

The whole team played well with the forwards providing a solid platform at the scrum with Alfie Parker and Scott Lewis to the fore and Mathew Hanson dominating in the line-out. The possession gained kept the backs on the front foot with Ewan Wilson and Tommy Kehoe (half-backs) providing quick clean ball for the centres Callum Smith and Dante Baptiste. Doug Rowland supported from full-back, choosing excellent running lines.  Baptiste was a revelation, outstripping the defence with his languid running style, and often when tackled he would bounce off the defenders showing great poise and balance. One to watch for the future, he had the crowd on its feet on many occasions.

The Under 12s took a strong squad and played two games against Bahamas, one on each day of competition. When playing their strongest squad, Cayman won both games but not without having to dig deep against a Bahamas team that had some considerable talent in terms of outright pace, size, strength and determination.

Coach Mat Bishop was proud of his team’s ability to dig in for the victory. I think it was the great philosopher Billy Ocean who once said “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going” and so it was for these intrepid adventurers. Led by the ubiquitous Jake Bailey, his long-striding gallops down the pitch with ball tucked under-arm were inspirational to his teammates. Cameron Sinclair ran down and over the opposition like a Pamplona Bull and brother Liam Sinclair was pivotal to much of Cayman’s best work, linking forward play to the backs. Freddie Robson was tigerish in the tackle, Louis Vagniez, Hayden Packer, Caden Stradling and Molly Kehoe were also highly influential during the games. Alex Claybourn, Finn Bishop and Cameron Sinclair were the Cayman scorers in Game 2.

When the Cayman teams split into two representative sides to play Freeport and Nassau, the scores did not go so well, with each side losing out. They will learn from this experience and missed first-up tackles always had the defence on the back foot.

Coach Bishop said, “The most important thing for the kids to take back with them is a belief in themselves. Rugby is a tough physical game and our guys played really well against some very strong players. I’m delighted with the way the team has progressed throughout the year.”

Cayman News Service

Cayman Under-10s captain Sebastian Bjuro (left) meets his Freeport opposite number

The Under 10s took two teams to play against Freeport, The Land-Crabs and the Turtles. These teams beat Freeport 4-3 and 6-4, respectively, before the final almighty tussle between the two Cayman sides. The Land Crabs won 5-4 with a contentious last minute “try” for the Turtles’ Devanti McInnerney being disallowed by the referee.

Coach Howard Byrne was impressed by the efforts and skills of all his players for whom this was their first foreign opposition. They quickly adapted to the heat of battle and for many it was a test of their mental fortitude and well as their physical strength. Sebastian Bjuro, Roger Cockhill and Digby Robinson were outstanding in the tackle whilst McInnerney, Tom Byrne, Barnaby Robinson and Jaden Cover led the try-scoring table.

Jonny Robson won a man-of-the-match performance for his efforts in the games against Freeport with a number of big tackles and barrelling charges up the pitch. A nice little cameo within this game was when he chased down his elder brother Freddie (who had been seconded into the Freeport team) like a cheetah hunting a gazelle on the Serengeti plains, stopping a certain try. Payback time came in the second half when Freddie tap-tackled Jonny into touch just inches short of the try-line. Honours even in the Robson household (thankfully).

Both teams grew in confidence over the course of the weekend and by the time the mixed-team games were played on the second day of competition the players were thoroughly enjoying themselves – respecting opponents on the pitch and making friends off it. These rivalries will be strong for years to come. The players can’t wait to book their trip for 2016.

Extra-special mention and gratitude must go to Vanassio Toketokevanua and Dave Clancy, who have coached across all age groups in some of rugby’s more technical aspects as well as in fitness and performance.

Tour organisers Rowland and Kehoe were delighted with the efforts of players, coaches and parents over the whole year and, although the current rugby season has now come to an end, all were already looking forward to next season.

The ultimate quote came from Under-14 player Andre Kluyver: “This was the best rugby tour ever!” Pretty good considering that he travelled with a broken collarbone and didn’t actually play any rugby!

Cayman Junior Rugby would like to thank the following sponsors for their continuing support: Fund Fiduciary Partners, Fidelity, The Security Centre, Island Supply, Aon and Nestle Milo.


Category: Rugby, Sports, Youth

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