Bermuda Under-19 squad off to flying start in Jamaica
Bermuda got off to an impressive start at the Rugby Americas North Under-19 tournament in Kingston, Jamaica, finishing the opening day top of pool A.
Chris Naylor’s side held top seeds Mexico to a 7-7 draw before going on to dominate the Cayman Islands, running in four unanswered tries in a comprehensive 29-0 victory to end the day unbeaten.
“Undoubtedly the performance in that second game was so much better,” said the head coach, whose side have returned to competitive action for the first time in two years because of the Covid pandemic.
“However, I think that first match we have to put down to a bit of nerves and also rustiness, having not played in such a long time.
“The performance in the second match was much more like it and we are all really pleased with how that game went for us.
“Having beaten Mexico in the first game, Cayman probably felt fairly confident but we came out on fire and got on top of them.
“Finishing top of our group means we avoid USA South, who are top seed in the other pool and look pretty strong.
“The boys have been fantastic and they’re loving being out here representing Bermuda; we’re all very proud of them.”
Having watched Mexico go down to a shock 15-7 defeat by Cayman Islands in the day’s opening encounter, Bermuda would have gained confidence heading into their match against one of the tournament favourites.
However, despite getting off to an encouraging start, dominating the opening exchanges, it was Mexico who broke the deadlock after 12 minutes, crashing over for a converted try after a prolonged period of pressure to take a 7-0 lead into half-time.
After a delayed restart to proceedings because of lightning strikes in the area, Bermuda quickly found themselves in the ascendancy and scored a try of their own in the 32nd minute.
Brandon Sangster broke through the Mexican defensive line before racing away to score under the posts. Kwame Naylor made light work of the conversion to level the scores with eight minutes remaining.
However, despite being on top, Bermuda were handed a major blow three minutes later when Gareth Cooper was sent to the sin-bin for five minutes after receiving a yellow card, reducing his side to 14 players for the rest of the game.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, it was Bermuda who looked the more likely to win the game in the closing stages but eventually the teams settled for a share of the spoils.
If the first match ultimately ended in frustration, the second proved anything but as Bermuda dominated Cayman Islands from start to finish.
In the fifth minute the deadlock was broken. After a flowing move down the left flank, Noah Botelho raced away to score under the posts. Naylor added the simple extras to give his side a 7-0 advantage.
Just two minutes later, captain Faizon Augustus seized on a loose pass deep in his own half before striding away 80 metres downfield to score his side’s second try. Again Naylor made no mistake with the conversion, taking the score to 14-0.
Cayman’s uphill task as made even harder with five minutes of the half remaining as captain Alex Fox let his frustration get the better of him and was subsequently shown a yellow card for dissent towards the referee.
With the man advantage, there was just enough time in the half for Bermuda to extend their advantage further, as the trusted boot of Naylor added a three points from a penalty to send his side in at the break 17-0 ahead.
Building on the momentum of the opening half, Bermuda picked up where they left off and scored a third try five minutes after the restart.
Receiving the ball on the right-hand side, Augustus again showed an impressive turn of foot, evading three challenges to race clear and crash over for his second try of the game. Once again, Naylor made no mistake with the extras, as Bermuda went 24-0 ahead.
Immediately after the restart, Bermuda added to their advantage. Collecting the kick, Sylas Young bullied his way through the opposition, swatting away three players with ease on his way to scoring in the right-hand corner. Naylor was unfortunate not to add the extras, narrowly missing the difficult conversion, as the score remained 29-0.
Bermuda played out the final moments of the match to seal an impressive victory and claim top spot in pool A.
The squad return to action today with matches against Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago from pool B.