FRIDAY, MAY 18: You get 23 boys together from the public and private school system from various backgrounds to play the wonderful game of rugby and you train for six weeks – what do you end up with?
Memories of a lifetime! After six weeks of intense training after the end of the Sunday rugby season, 23 U12 players left our shores to play in the first Tri Nations mini rugby tournament in the Bahamas on May 12 and May 13 with the Bahamas and Cayman Islands.
The team is truly a global with boys from Indonesia, Jamaica, Bahamas, US, South Africa, UK and Bermuda. In addition, the success of the Beyond Rugby programme, the Bermuda Rugby Football Union Mini rugby programmes and Patrick Calow’s (youth development officer) work in the schools has positively impacted the team with the squad composition being from nine schools and an equal mix from both the public and private school system.
Many of the boys are in their first year of rugby and thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie and focused training sessions, which enhanced their knowledge of the game.
The boys started their tour with a flight to Miami and a visit to a local Gator park where many of them took a trip on an airboat for the first time.
Next day coach Robb got rid of the travel cobwebs with an intense training session at the Freeport Rugby Club.
Saturday was an early start with a round robin tournament between the Bahamas, Cayman and Bermuda. The Bermuda Reds played scintillating rugby on the Saturday and outplayed the Cayman and Bahamian opposition winning both matches by scores of 30-0 and the impressive fact was the try scoring was well spread across the team.
The Bermuda Blues had a scrappy start losing their first match to a very powerful Bahamian side 35-15 which showed tremendous skill and certainly put the Bermuda coaches on “high alert” for the Sunday International.
The second match they dug deep and beat the side in what was a cracking game of rugby with no quarter given but the Bermuda blues played with a bit more cohesion when it really mattered and ran out winners 30-15.
Sunday, May 14 was D-day. At 11 am the squads came together in front of the clubhouse and were introduced to Sir Jack Hayward, one of the founding members of the rugby club. This was followed by the British and Bahamian National anthems – a proud moment for all the squads as they were about to earn their representative honours.
The first game saw Bermuda play Cayman Islands and,in what was a very sporting game, Bermuda came strong in the second half to win the game. Many of the new players came to the fore and played with passion and pride and the final score was a 45-5 victory for Bermuda.
The Cayman side played some great rugby and were a credit to their coaching staff of Chris Rowland and Mick Kehoe.
The second game against the Bahamas was much closer. The Bermuda squad knew they were up against it especially as the Bahamas scored straight after the kick off.
There was some desperate defense and clearing kicks by Johnny Page and Robbie Turnbull (captain) and somehow at half time Bermuda went in arrears by only one try (2-1) thanks to some last minute and try saving tackles with fullback Enyche Zuill leading the charge.
At half time, coach Stephen Robb got the squad together and spoke to them with emotion and passion telling them that we knew the Bahamas were stronger, faster and bigger than our team but felt we had the heart and the requisite skills to pull this game out of the fire.
The next 20 minutes will live long in the memory of the squad and the Bermuda contingent with unparalleled commitment and will to win.
They tackled, harried and frustrated the opposition with each tackle lifting the team and they just would not buckle under the pressure. The six weeks of hard training at the Arboretum and Somersfield now shone though as the boys grew in confidence and continuously knocked their opposition backwards.
They outscored the Bahamas by four tries to nil in the second half and there were scenes of jubilation as the final whistle blew. The entire squad of 23 had played their part in what was a win against all the odds. Tri Nations champions - Memories that will last a lifetime.