...stun Mexico 30-16 in regional final
T&T’s Calypso Warriors yesterday officially regained its claim as the most successful tier three rugby union team in the region, by lifting the North America and Caribbean Rugby Association (Nacra) Rugby Championship for the third time with a 30-16 win over Mexico at St mary’s ground in St Clair.
As with the North Zone championship win over Guyana two weeks ago, yesterday’s grand finale had its nervous moments from the home perspective but any doubt of a T&T win was put to rest late on with a brilliant solo try from Agboola Silverthorn.
No stranger to an impressive try, Silverthorn stole the show after receiving a pass from Andrew Taylor at mid-field, before darting past two sets of Mexico players, using tremendous agility and strength. Taylor converted to close the scoring.
That was T&T’s only try of the period and one that followed two second half tries from a revived Mexico, a team largely dominated in the first.
T&T went into the break with a comfortable 23-6 advantage, after Samuel Roberts (10th minute) and Jonathan O’Connor (31st) scored one try each, the latter of which was converted by Taylor, as well as another two penalties from Taylor. In the final minute of the first half, T&T was awarded five more points by the referee after a Mexico player was found guilty of pulling a try-bound Silverthorn by the hair.
O’Connor’s pushover try at the hour-hour mark, followed a minute after Mexico’s Marcus Flegmann was directed to the sin bin for an attempted punch at Ernest Wright.
Mexico was a different team after the break, probably inspired by a blow-out from the coach, Ruben Duque.
After the whistle sounded for the restart, Mexico resurfaced this time with a try from a fired up Flegmann, the same player temporarily ejected in the first half.
Then, on the hour mark, Felician Guerra had the honour of a temporary ejection himself, taking one for the T&T team, after failing to roll away after a tackle and with repeated warnings from the referee.
In the 67th minute, soon before Guerra returned, Mexico capitalised once again from the mounted pressure with a try from Simon Pierre.
Thereafter, T&T regained composure and some control, but did not look dangerous enough to extend the advantage. But it did come, and following a piece of magic from Silverthorn, a member of T&T’s sevens team at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, last year.
After a typically solid performance, T&T captain Adam Frederick gave his take on the match, but played down any suggestion that his team was played exceptionally well, at least in the second half.
“It could’ve been better. I always say that we could do better. But, the first half, I mean, there were no problems in the first half. It was effortless; it just came natural to us,” he said. “(In) the second half, we kind of went down. It wasn’t the best (half).”
Over the two periods, T&T’s chemistry had visibly improved from the narrow win over Guyana. There were fewer unforced errors and blunders. The passing and off-the-ball movement from T&T were fluid and quick, and the Warriors’ tackling, for the most part, was full and assertive.
Frederick, however, is adaman that as a whole, elementary improvements are necessary for this country to progress in international rugby.
“Catches on the kick-offs, the basic things, the restarts are the basic things that let us down. We need to be a little more secure.
“We definitely improved at each passing game. The boys have grown well together. It was our main focus and sticking to the game plan that actually did it for us.”
He, his teammates and the staff went on to lift the Nacra trophy for the first time in seven year. But just before, in a most fitting and pore-raising tribute to one of their former teammates, Frederick and company surrounded Jason “Moon” Clarke to celebrate with him as they performed their ritual chant. Clark, also a former Caribs stand-out was involved in an car accident three years ago, which left him paralysed and in a wheelchair.