New York has the touch at Cayman rugby tournament

| 25/04/2016
CNS Local Life

Cayman White mixed touch team – runners up in the mixed-open tournament

(CRFU): Attracting competitors from New York, Washington, Houston and Jamaica, games were played all day at the recent inaugural Cayman International Touch Tournament 2016, with the teams from the Big Apple eventually making a clean sweep. There was also time for a mini-tournament for the youth of Cayman to demonstrate their touch skills.

In the men’s open tournament, four teams battled it out in a round robin with Houston Hurricanes, New York City Touch and two teams from Cayman – Cayman Blue and Cayman White.

Cayman White took on the might of New York City Touch winning 4-3 with a spirited performance. NYCT are a dangerous team with attacking threats all over the field. Cayman White beat Cayman Blue in the second round before beating Houston in their third match. NYCT beat Cayman Blue 3-1, having previously defeated Houston in the second round.

In their early game, Cayman Blue started with a straightforward 6-0 win over the Houston Hurricanes, a composite team of Houstonians complemented by a selection of players coming from Chicago, Philadelphia, Jamaica and Cayman. Team leader Ivan Kay said, “One of the highlights was playing with players from different clubs – the guys and girls from Jamaica were awesome, they had such great attitude to the game.”

In the men’s open final, Cayman drew first blood against NYCT with a length of field intercept scored by Olly Close. He’s a big lad with long legs and showed a fine pair of heels to the chasing pack. It still needed the dive to score and the home crowd was ecstatic.

New York pulled the score back and went ahead with some fine scores using their strike runners to create chaos in the Cayman White defence. Seeing a gap is one thing, but having the presence of mind to exploit it is another. NYCT did this regularly and the Cayman defenders seemed to have to run in two directions at once to stop them. After a mix-up in the Cayman defence, NYCT scored in the corner to go ahead.

With the clock ticking in the second half NYCT’s control over the game started to wane. Cayman White surged forward like rabid shoppers on Black Friday. Jono Milne bobbed and weaved at dummy half and eventually one of his darting runs to the wide gave him enough space to release the inside dive ball for Morgan Shelver to score.

With just seconds left, Shelver, whose shoulder-rolling side-step has become a trademark, superbly cut inside a NY defender before the offload to his diminutive partner-in-crime, Dave Stringer, to score.

As the final whistle blew, the score was tied at 3-3 and a drop-off was needed to determine the winner. In a drop-off each team starts with six on the pitch and periodically loses a player until it’s just three on three. They say, “Anything can happen in a New York minute,” and so it was as each team had chances but it was NYCT who scored the decisive touchdown to take the title – a great game, with a dramatic ending.

In the women’s open tournament, Cayman entered two teams – Cayman White and Cayman Blue. They pitted their collective wits against the might of New York City Touch. The visitors are very strong and adept ball handlers and so it proved on this day. NYCT defeated Cayman White 7-1 after Cayman White had previously sunk Cayman Blue 2-1.

The final was a competitive affair and Cayman Blue probably played some of their best-ever touch. Their skills and game knowledge have grown exponentially over the last 12 months due to hard work and good coaching, and it showed. Time and again they threatened the NYCT line but couldn’t cross. NYCT were too strong and took their chances with well-executed plays around the red zone.

Using their mids and links to good effect, gaps were eventually exploited through a combination of quick feet, fast hands and even faster minds. Touchdowns were scored periodically but the Cayman fighting spirit was evident when Agueda Blake turned on the afterburners to score for Cayman White. It was to be a consolation as NYCT ran out 4-1 winners to take a well-earned victory in the women’s open final.

The mixed-open tournament had the largest representation from overseas with two teams from New York City Touch, Galaxy DCA from Washington and Houston Hurricanes joining three Cayman teams.

In Pool A Cayman Blue, Cayman White, New York-B, and Galaxy DCA played off with Cayman White topping the group.

Having dominated their earlier pool games against New York-B and Cayman Blue with a combination of voracious defence and warp-factor speed, Cayman White faced Galaxy DCA. In an end-to-end game, Cayman White hauled back the early deficit with the speed of Andrew West and Riley “the Goat” Mullen, set loose by the slick hands and poise of Adam Huckle and Jane Hale in midfield.  The 2-2 draw was enough to put them through to the final.

In Pool B Cayman Red, New York-A and Houston Hurricanes fought for the top spot. New York-A were favourites and played like it. Slick interchanges and well-organised offence saw clear victories against both rivals. One of NY’s main attributes is its use of all the players on the pitch. Some mixed teams struggle to fully utilise their female contingent but for New York this is non-negotiable.

The final saw New York-A take on Cayman White. It was always going to be a tough ask for the Cayman team as New York were filled with players who had previously been victorious in the men’s and women’s competitions. White started superbly with a planned move from the kick-off that put West in the corner for the score – a move practised a thousand times, which to come off in a final was especially pleasing. Rocked on their heels, New York came back swinging. They equalised and at halftime the score was tied at 1-1.

Great defensive work from White with Stefan Prior to the fore kept the dangerous New York middles in check but it was evident that the Whites were tiring. Using well-rehearsed moves, New York scored halfway through the second half. Try as they might, Cayman could not break through, with Mullen being pulled back by the referees when he thought he was clean through to score. The final score was 2-1 to New York and the clean sweep of all three titles went to the Big Apple.

Beaten but not broken, Huckle said at the end, “New York are deserved champions.  Well-drilled, they managed the game and deployed superior patterns and plays.  Good bunch of guys and girls, too.  Hope they come back to defend their title next year!”

Tournament organiser Scott McCarty said, ‘We are very pleased with how the tournament went.  Our objective was to run a tournament that touring teams would want to come back to and have a positive impact on Cayman’s touch community and we achieved that.  Many players experienced a competitive touch event for the first time, which will stimulate further growth of the sport in Cayman.”

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Category: Rugby, Sports

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