Reasons for optimism in first win of the season
Another game, another step in the process to rebuild the Bermuda team, a small measure of revenge and an occasionally exciting glimpse into what the future may hold.
Sloppy at times, frustrating at others, Bermuda still thoroughly deserved their Rugby Americas Championship North win on Saturday against a Bahamas side in a similar rebuilding phase.
The nature of the four tries that the home side scored hinted at greater things to come, and while Roedolf van der Westhuizen's team are far from being the finished product they can at least point to some speed out wide as evidence of progression.
Nigel Burgess scythed through the Bahamas defence for his side's first try, added a second after some fine work by Patrick Calow in the centre, and in between Antonio Perinchief and Bennet Gibson scored from close range.
There is cause for optimism too in the number of younger players being given, and taking, their opportunities. Still raw, and without the spatial awareness that comes with experience and a bit more discipline, Jahniko Francis, the wing, has the kind of pace that puts fear into the hearts of any team.
Mikle Dill and Camren Caines both made their international debuts, while Perinchief and Aldon Campbell won their second caps in the centres.
“If you go back a few years winning was a real habit for us, the last couple of seasons have been pretty barren, so just to get a win under our belts was pretty important,” Peter Dunkerley, the Bermuda captain, said.
“Today they [the new players] did a pretty good job. Yes, they made mistakes, somethings didn't go so well, but at times we put together some good phases, some good rugby. But just having that pace out wide transforms the game.”
Which is not to say that there are not areas that need work.
Bermuda's constant need to go for touch because of the lack of a natural kicker to take penalty goals made the scoreline closer than it might otherwise have needed to be. Still, Tommy Edwards, the fly half, kicked two penalties and two conversions, but missed a couple more.
Fortunately Brian Baker, the Bahamas full back, was equally uncomfortable kicking and his poor clearing kick handed Bermuda their second try when it fell to Francis, who cut inside, offloaded to Perinchief and the centre broke several tackles before touching down.
Elsewhere Bermuda's line-out was inconsistent as Conor McGlynn adjusts to his new role at hooker, something which also impacted the scrum, where Bermuda are still adapting to a front row with two new members.
Defensively Perinchief and Campbell were exposed on occasion, as was Francis, although the chances of any of that trio stopping Bahamas' Patrick Arthur, a man-mountain at lock, were always going to be slim.
“Clearly we are a work in progress, absolutely,” Dunkerely said. “We've got a lovely blend of ugly, gnarly old forwards with a lot of experience, and just a huge passion for the game still, and then these phenomenal young guys. Great young guys, they've got so much talent, they've got pace, it's just harnessing that.”
For their part Bahamas were predictable if not determined and in Devon Woodside, their captain and openside flanker, had one of the best players on the pitch. Woodside put in a prodigious amount of work at the breakdown and around the scrum, harrying Bermuda to the point of distraction.
Dorian Bendle, the Bahamas scrum half, was equally effective with ball in hand, but the disjointed nature of the Bahamas approach meant that Jordan Isaacs and Odell Ambrister, the wings, were anonymous bystanders for much of the match. Isaacs's less than stellar afternoon was brought to a rather ignominious end when he hobbled off with cramp ten minutes from time.
Bahamas grabbed their tries at the beginning and end of the second half, and Bermuda had a hand in both. For the first, Tom Healy, the scrum half, kicked poorly under pressure allowing Bahamas to reclaim the ball on the Bermuda 22, and a battering run by Arthur opened up the Bermuda defence enough to send Ryan Knowles over in at the corner.
Baker missed the conversion leaving his side ten points adrift at 18-8, and Gibson and Burgess extended Bermuda's lead to 30-8 with little more than two minutes to play. As it was Arthur had the final word as Bahamas piled on the pressure when Bermuda failed to clear their lines.
The big lock drove over and all that remained was for Justin Lewis to have his conversion attempt charged down by Burgess.
Next up for Bermuda is a trip to Cayman Islands, their last game in the competition this season. It will be, according to Dunkerley, the “real acid test of where we are in the rebuilding process”.
“There are going to be a tough team to beat,” he said. “We've got some things to work on over the next couple of weeks, but if we can put that together, and I saw enough on the field today to suggest we can, then I think we can beat them.”
Scoring sequence (Bermuda first); 7-0, 7-3, 10-3, 15-3 (half-time) 15-8, 18-8, 23-8, 30-8, 30-13.
Bermuda: Tries: Burgess 2 (16min, 78), Perinchief (38), Gibson (77). Conversions: Edwards 2 (17, 78). Penalty Goals: Edwards 2 (29, 59).
Bahamas: Tries: Knowles (55), Arthur (80). Penalty Goal: Baker (20).
Bermuda: D Cole; J Francis (rep: M Dill, 68min), A Perinchief (rep: P Calow, 70), Aldon Campbell (rep: C Caines, 70), N Burgess; T Edwards, T Healy. D Richardson (rep: J Cedenio, 77), C McGlynn (rep: T DeSilva, 59), D Archibald (rep: C Stafford, 78), P Dunkerley (rep: C La Placa, 78), T Greenslade, A Richards, B Gibson, R van der Westhuizen (rep: Aldo Campbell, 75).
Bahamas: B Baker; J Isaacs (rep: D Allen, 70), A Kemp, K Deveaux, O Ambrister; D Butler, D Bendle. G Morrison (sin-bin, 70-80), A Carlos, J Cartwright (rep: J Feanster, 29), M Hammerton (rep: R Bain, 68), P Arthur, J Lewis, D Woodside, R Knowles.
Referee: J Colgan (Cayman).