September 28, 2020

Cayman 3 Bermuda 7 full NACRA report


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On Saturday 19th May 2012, under ominous grey clouds, Bermuda’s National Rugby team took on visiting Cayman Islands in 2012 NACRA Caribbean’s Men’s 15 a-side Championship and World Cup qualifying match.

The two sides have become fierce rivals fighting for the coveted Caribbean Championship title. This game is the first step toward the title and the chance to represent the Caribbean area in the World Cup qualifications.

After the national anthems Canadian/Scottish referee Andrew Hosie commenced the much anticipated grudge match. Bermuda having won the toss decided to play the first half with the considerable wind in their face. The first clashes up front set the tone for the game as each pack hammered into the fray displaying the desire needed to win.

Bermuda managed to eke out some phase balls and a promising run by Andrew hook made in-roads past a very stubborn Cayman defense. Indiscipline at the breakdown and back chat to the referee cost Bermuda valuable territory but Bermuda looked to have the better of the opening exchanges and was building momentum. The ball was recycled well and some slick hands in the backs put Neville Zuill into space.

The young Police winger showed his elusive moves and brought the play deep into the Caymans 22 meters. Caymans sensing an opening score looming cynically killed the ball at the breakdown and a penalty was awarded in front of the posts. The usually reliable Ian Henderson stepped up and his anguished cry echoed around the well attended grounds as he skewed the easy penalty wide left.

The early let off embolden Caymans who responded with some strong forward play the set up a solid platform for their dangerous dreadlocked full back Joel Clark to crash into the line. Caymans were awarded a penalty 38 yards out after a promising attack was snuffled out by Lachie Armour.

Cayman’s diminutive standoff Morgan Hayward coolly stepped up and stroked the wind assisted effort across for a 3-0 lead. The ensuing kickoff saw a moment of madness by speedster Andre Landy who smashed into Caymans flanker Josh Clark whilst he was exposed in the air attempting to catch the kick off. Groans resounded from the partisan crowd as a yellow card was quiet rightly shown to the dispirited Landy.

With the man advantage Cayman’s picked up the tempo of the game and began to get the territorial advantage. However the deep probing kicks seeking to push Bermuda back were magnificently returned with interest by Bermuda fullback David Pringle who was solid under the high ball. Cayman’s forwards began to crash into the tight and only some brave tackles by Paul Dobinson and David Rorke stemmed the tide.

The Cayman scrum half Simon Crompton marshaled his pack well and a laser pass out to their Fijian born centre Venasio Tokato-Kavanua saw a powerful break surge into Bermuda’s half. From the base of the scrum the burly Cayman number 8, William Blair rampage down the blind side. Only desperate back tracking by the ever present open side flanker Henry Paddison stopped a try scoring opportunity.

However Bermuda was pulled up for not rolling away and a penalty was awarded. Hayward stepped up for the kick but it sailed agonizing left of the posts and Bermuda was sighing with relief at the let off. Bermuda struck back with some controlled phase ball seemingly intent on smashing around the fringes making ground a foot at a time- hooker Thomas Greenslade and his front row partner Dustin Archibald relished the tight action upfront but lead by courageous blind side flanker Phil Fourie, Caymans were content to suck up the pressure and rest on their lead.

Frustration was growing along the side lines as Bermuda looked lost for attacking options and the tight driving tactics were playing into the Caymans big but slow forwards hands. After several incidents of Caymans not rolling away from the breakdown referee finally pulled them up and a clever quick tap penalty by Tom Heally saw the mercurial Irishman dart pass the startled Cayman pack- a nifty off load to Tom Edwards relieved the pressure and put Caymans on the back foot.

Caymans were left ruing their inability to take advantage of the extra man during Landy’s 10 minute incarceration. The winger made immediate amends on his return when after another brilliant break by Cayman fullback Joel Clark- scrum half Simon Crompton broke through the fringes and was looking to score in the corner. Landy’s try saving tackle bundled the player into touch short of the line and ensured the score line remained 3-0.

The relief was short lived as Bermuda promptly lost the ensuing lineout and Peter Dunkerley saved the red faces by holding up a driving Yohann Regnard. The purple patch for Caymans continued as Bermuda was guilty of poor clearance kicks. However Bermuda displayed their grit and determination with solid team defense and committed tackles. The tide was stemmed by a turn over by Armour which finally saw a decent clearance to relieve the tension.

Bermuda then enjoyed some territorial advantage and a blind side break by Heally saw him uncork the dangerous Zuill who once again twisted and turned deep into the Caymans 22. Once again Caymans killed the ball in the shadows of their posts. The crowd was baying for punitive action by the referee but their cries went unheeded. Healy with a sudden rush of blood to the head took a quick tap penalty and sprinted for the line only to be crushed short of the line by two Cayman tacklers.

Referee Hosie adjudged that the Caymans were not back 10 and awarded a penalty just to the right of the posts. With the half time whistle beckoning the more knowledgeable supports looked for the score to be tied with the easy penalty kick. Heads were shaking in disbelief when Bermuda opted for a five meter scrum.

The mutterings grew as a fired up Cayman pack drove the Bermuda scrum backwards and cleared their lines. Deep into injury time Bermuda still had a promising attacking lineout but poor execution allowed for Caymans to steal the ball and secure a moral boosting 3-0 lead at half time.

With the strong wind at their backs for the second half Bermuda began with vim and vigor. Henderson looked to pin the Caymans back deep in their half with raking kicks but the Caymans back three astutely dropped deeper and showed real enterprise in their counter attacks. Bermuda finally began to spin the ball wide and with Pringle inserting pace into the back line they finally began to look dangerous in the expansive game.

Landy went around his man and a clever chip looked to have unlocked the Caymans back line however a late hit off the ball by the Caymans full back saw their best player sin binned. With the extra man Bermuda began to gain ascendency. Inexplicably though Bermuda remain doggedly committed to playing tight and once again the large and committed Cayman pack stonewalled any forward movement.


The rare ball that the Bermuda backs got going forward allowed them to exploit the holes that were appearing. Commendable rear guard actions by the Caymans centre duo of Chris Bunce and Jon Murphy shut down most of the brief forays and did not allow for Bermuda to develop pattern play. The lack of tempo and consistent phase play began to erode the patience of the spectators and as the game inched along tensions grew.

This was compounded by the heavy Caymans scrum beginning to get the upper hand against a tiring Bermuda front row. Some concerned conferencing by coaching tandem Lawrence Bird and Johann Oosthuizen saw some thoughtful Bermuda substitutions made- fresh prop Jahan Cedenio shored up the creaking scrum and strong running centre Paull Davis injected some penetration in the back line.

Still Bermuda was lacking ideas and a horrifically struck drop kick by Henderson after some tedious build up epitomized Bermuda’s afternoon. Worried heads were shaking when Caymans full back returned from his punishment with Bermuda unable to convert territory and pressure into points. As the clocked ticked down, the ever smiling Bermuda captain Dunkerley, remained calm under the pressure, firm in the belief that the points would come.

Substitute back row Darren Richardson came on and Bermuda began to execute driving mauls off the lineouts and the base of the scrum. Caymans manned up but increasingly they were guilty of pulling the mauls down. A penalty was duly awarded 20 meter out to the right of the posts but Henderson horrendous day with the boot continued and his nervous kick smacked square on the post and bounced back into the field of play.

Only the most fervent of Bermuda fans did not have a growing sense of impending doom. Despite dominating the second half- it just did not seem to be the Longtail’s day. Dominating territorially, Bermuda was awarded three consecutive attacking scrums. Dunkerley called his own number with the patented back row move “hunchback drive” off the base of the scrum proving effective. The driving mauls crept closer and closer.

Once again Caymans defended bravely but questions had to be asked by the way they continuously pulled the mauls down. It was clear entering the final stanza of the game that referee Hosie was leaving his whistle in his pocket and letting the players decide the outcome. Another scrum was awarded 10 meters out and this time Dunkerley took the more direct route and broke blind -powering through tackles only to be held up short of the line.

The expression cometh the hour cometh the man could not have been more apt as veteran and former national team captain Bobby Hurdle picked up the ball from the base of the ruck and in text book fashion drove through two tacklers to score an emphatic try with less than 5 minutes left.

Henderson calmed his nerves and finally found his form to knock the important conversion over for a 7-3 lead. Bermuda’s growth in confidence was palpable and having played tight all game long they were able to comfortably close out the final minutes of the game with grinding forward play. Deep in injury time Henderson tried a speculative long range drop kick which went wide.

The final whistle saw a jubilant Bermuda win 7-3 in a dour error strewn but committed encounter. Caymanian heads can be held high with their very brave and steadfast display. Although not a classic by any stretch of the imagination Bermuda will be relieved with the hard fought triumph and will look to build on it as they head down to Bahamas for their next game. The winner of that game will advance to the Caribbean championship.

Photos by John Manderson, Report by Sean Field


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