Barbados’ Under-19 rugby squad have started their 2014 North America Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) campaign in winning style, with two victories against fellow Pool A teams, Jamaica and Cayman Islands, in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Bajans jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead against Jamaica in their first match last Saturday at the Fatima College Grounds in Port of Spain. Playing a tough, aggressive and physical game, they dominated the first half against the Reggae Youth. Second half action saw a much better organised Jamaica attack, but they were unable to make headway against a determined defence, and eventually the blue and gold prevailed.
In the second match of Pool A action on Tuesday, three-time defending champions Cayman Islands marched out to an early lead, ably assisted by their trademark kicking style. A try by Barbados’ Ryan Browne put his team on the board, and some near misses at the Cayman
try-line gave the Bajans hope of taking the lead just before half-time, but staunch defence kept the score at 9-5 to Cayman at the break.
Energized and eager to play, Cayman came back in the second half to score a stealthy try minutes after restart. Displaying admirable tenacity, Browne scored his second try of the match, while Cayman kept rolling, opening up a seemingly unassailable 11-point lead, much to the dismay of the Bajan supporters.
On the pitch, though, it was a different story. When a yellow card put Barbados’ Shane “Cracker John” Howard in the sin-bin for ten minutes, his team-mates rallied with a spine-tingling show of textbook rugby defence to keep the opposition at bay. After the team returned to full strength, Akeem Harding took the field, replacing Dario Howard. Other on-field adjustments brought more energy to the Bajans, resulting in five more points from a Nick Daniel try, while preventing the opposition from putting up any more points. In the stands, the Bajan supporters were understandably concerned, but the players on the pitch had their minds focused solely on winning.
As the match progressed, a tactical error by Cayman Islands allowed a Barbados scrum, and captain Conrad Edgar celebrated his 19th birthday with the try that put the Bajans ahead by one precious point, as the final whistle sounded.
The Bajan celebrations erupted at once, as this victory meant the team would be in the final this Saturday, competing for the title of NACRA U19 2014 Champions. They will face the winner of Pool B, to be determined by fixtures played late today. At the moment, Pool B is wide open with Mexico, USA South and hosts Trinidad and Tobago all hotly contesting honours.
The championship game is at 6 p.m. at the Hasley Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.