Bermuda clinch Caribbean crown
Bermuda men's rugby team were crowned Caribbean champions after beating Guadeloupe 33-10 in the Rugby Americas North Championship final at North Field, National Sports Centre on Saturday.
Bermuda ultimately proved too strong for their opponents, despite a spirited fightback at the beginning of the second half, building on a 14-0 half-time lead to prevail courtesy of two tries apiece from Alex Brown and Jamie Baum, as well as a penalty try and extras from Dan Cole, to regain a title not won since 2012.
Alexandre Dagorn scored the visitors consolation try with Thomas Gouban adding the extras.
Jamie Barnwell, Bermuda's head coach, could not hide his delight at fulfilling an important target he set when taking over the men's team at the beginning of the year.
“We set ourselves this goal in January and to get across the line is fantastic, the boys have done a great job and so obviously we're all very happy with that,” he said.
“This is a really important milestone for the team. There wasn't any space for us not to win, we had to get a result to continue the trajectory we've been on and the boys did just that, it's been a great team effort.
“There are a lot of people behind the scenes who have put a lot of work into the rugby programme in this country and Bermuda is seeing the results of that now, it's good times at the moment.
“We've done what we wanted to do and now is time to reflect and see how we can push on further.”
Bermuda got off to the perfect start, scoring a try within the first minute as a flowing move between Brown and the impressive Tom Healey, resulted in the former charging through Guadeloupe's defensive line to crash over. Dan Cole made no mistake with the simple conversion to gift the home side an early 7-0 advantage.
The visitors rallied and enjoyed a period of pressure of their own which lead to a penalty opportunity, left of centre from 30 yards out in the tenth minute. However, Francois Carbonel did not take advantage, as his weak effort fell short of the posts.
Bermuda regained the ascendancy and found themselves camped in the opposition half for the next ten minutes as they piled the pressure on Guadeloupe. Cole narrowly missed a difficult penalty opportunity on the right touchline from 30 yards out, before Barnwell's side were rewarded for their dominance following a number of scrums close to the try line.
From one such scrum, Healey again proved the architect, breaking early from the pack to find Baum, who had enough space to squeeze over. Cole again made no mistake from the conversion to double Bermuda's advantage to 14-0 after 27 minutes.
Just as they did after conceding the first try, Guadeloupe responded strongly and dominated the remainder of the half. However, they continued to be wasteful with their opportunities as Carbonel spurned a seemingly simple penalty with three minutes of the half remaining as Bermuda held on to their 14 point advantage going into the interval.
The second-half started with a flurry of penalties, as Cole narrowly missed a difficult opportunity, before the visiting side finally put their first points on board with substitute Gouban sending a 35-yard effort over the posts to reduce the deficit after 52 minutes.
Moments later, Cole missed a seemingly simple penalty, spurning the chance to restore Bermuda's 14-point advantage and he was made to rue his miss as Guadeloupe reduced the deficit further with a try of their own just a minute later.
With Bermuda in possession, Dagorn brilliantly read a wayward pass to intercept the ball and race clear down the field to score. Gouban had the task of slotting the simple conversion between the posts to see his side just four points behind, with the score at 14-10 with 25 minutes remaining.
However, the setback appeared to rejuvenate Bermuda, who from that point on dominated the remainder of the encounter. A period of prolonged pressure ensued in the left-hand corner, agonisingly close to the try-line, as Bermuda's evident greater power in the scrum proved to cause problems.
With pressure mounting, Guadeloupe were reduced to 14 men as Baptiste Magniont was shown a yellow card.
With the numerical advantage, Bermuda continued to apply pressure in the corner, ultimately resulting in a penalty try being awarded in the 64th minute, extending the scoreline to 21-10.
With ten minutes remaining the home side gave themselves further breathing space by scoring their third try as Brown broke through Guadeloupe's defensive line to score under the posts. Cole once again slotted the simple conversion between the posts to see Bermuda hold a 28-10 lead.
Refusing to rest on their laurels, Barnwell's side continued to probe for further scores and were duly rewarded for their endeavours in the 73rd minute with the final try of the afternoon.
Once again, Healey proved the provider, sending a brilliantly guided kick down the left touchline, which Baum managed to win the foot race with Paul Bessieres, to score in the corner.
Cole narrowly missed with the difficult conversion from the touchline, but it could not take the shine off the result as Bermuda sealed a 33-10 victory to be crowned champions.