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Guyana defeated Jamaica on drop kicks 2-0 yesterday at the National Park in their best-of-five `kicks to the goal', after the game was tied at regulation time 6-6, to become junior rugby champions of the West Indies. The Guyana team is also one win away from qualifying for next year's Junior Rugby World Cup in South Africa if they can defeat the USA on Sunday in their final game in the current three-nation finals qualifier.
On a damp outfield which was soaked further by a few intermittent showers during the game, the Guyanese probably owed their victory to an outstanding display of teamwork and the individual heroics of Ryan Hinckson who had an outstanding game. With his team falling behind 3-0 after a penalty kick by Jamaica's Kemar Gray in the first half, Hinckson equalized for Guyana with his first penalty kick in the game midway through the second half. He again proved his worth when he tied the game a second time for Guyana in the final seconds of regulation time with another of his trademark kicks just outside the 22 metre line. This was after Gray scored his second penalty to give Jamaica a three-point lead minutes before 6-3.
With the game tied at the end of regulation and the rules stipulating no overtime, it was up to the `kickers' of both teams to snatch victory for their team.
Guyana took the first kick and it was no good as it missed the uprights. Jamaica could do no better as the ball went along the ground with their first kick. It was time again for Hinckson to make his mark and he made no mistake as he sent the ball between the uprights to put Guyana ahead. Jamaica missed their third try and the die was cast as Guyana's captain Oscar Prince also sent a `good' kick to put his team ahead 2-0. With two kicks remaining for Jamaica they needed to score both to tie with Guyana and force sudden death kicks. However, it seemed that the pressure was too much for the Jamaicans as their fourth kick did not find its intended target. As a consequence, their final kick was not necessary as Guyana's 2-0 lead was unassailable.
The Guyana team could barely contain their delight as they jumped up and down on the field and did some sliding on the wet grass for the fans. They had defied the odds it seemed with the heavier and sturdier Jamaican forwards giving them a `run for their money'. Coach John Lewis was a happy man after the game and said that it was a very good win for the team after giving away a lot of weight to the Jamaican forwards.
He added, "our guys kept at it and we won enough balls to win it in the end." Lewis also said that his team was fitter than the Jamaicans and this showed in the second half with the Guyana team being more aggressive. The manager said that the Guyanese were able to wear down the Jamaicans and that helped in the end.
However, Jamaica's coach Kevin Gordon was not a happy man. In fact he was very disappointed and told Stabroek Sport that he was not happy with the way the game was refereed. According to him after he was informed that a minute was left in the game the match continued for more than 10 minutes, time he feels gave Guyana the opportunity to draw level at the end of regulation time. He also said that there were some questionable penalties which were awarded to the home team. Gordon said that apart from this the game had been very competitive and hard-fought. The Jamaican said that his team will now have to go back to the drawing board for their clash with the USA today.
Stabroek Sport spoke with Referee Anthony Pontiflette of Trinidad & Tobago and related to him Gordon's concerns about the penalties and the additional time. Pontiflette said that he was not aware of any such penalties and declared that he was not about to get into an exchange with the coach in the media. He added that the coach knows the rules and if he had a complaint he should lodge it with the Match Commissioner (Tom Jones). The Trinidadian however said that he was willing to talk to Gordon if he so desired to explain or answer any queries he may have about the game.
Before the game started president of the Guyana Rugby Football Union (GRFU) Kit Nascimento told the gathering of teams and officials that Guyana was happy to have them here for such an important event. He mentioned that this was the first time that Guyana was playing host to a national team from the USA in any sport moreso rugby. He thanked all the sponsors including GT&T, Banks DIH and BWIA. Carlton Defour of BWIA and Michael George of GT&T pledged their organization's continued support for sport and urged the teams to play in the best spirit of the game. Match Commissioner Tom Jones thanked the GRFU on behalf of Sid Miller the IRB chairman for hosting the tournament.
Sports and Culture minister Gail Teixeira also addressed the gathering and said that this year has been a difficult one for the government and so they had been unable to offer more support to the GRFU. She however, lauded the efforts of the local rugby union saying that the sport has come a long way in Guyana over the past four years. The minister urged the teams to play hard but showed local bias when she laughingly declared that as a Guyanese she wants Guyana to win. She said that her government will continue to support sport in the future.
The minister then met with the managers and captains of both teams after which the national anthems of Guyana and the USA were played. Three Jamaican players sang their country's anthem since the GRFU did not have a recording.
Also present at the game were National Sports Commission (NSC) chairman Laurie Lewis as well as a number of parents of players in the USA and Guyana teams in addition to a smattering of vocal Guyanese supporters.
USA and Jamaica clash today from 3 pm.