Seven-a-side champs ecstatic about win By Lloyda Nicholas

Stabroek News
November 15, 2006

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The triumphant North American and West Indian Rugby Association's (NAWIRA) Seven-a-side champions returned to Guyana from Barbados Monday night ecstatic about their performance.

Stabroek Sport was at the airport to welcome the team and spoke with the Captain, Troy Arjoon who said, "Last year it slipped away from us, and we set our goals to just step it up to the next level and we carried it to the opposition this year."

The Guyana team won eight games including one against the United States South team, on their way to claiming the overall title. Senior Vice President of the Guyana Rugby Football Union (GRFU) and manager of the team John Lewis, said that the boys were clearly the best team in the competition.

He pointed out that there had always been a NAWIRA trophy for the best finishing Caribbean team because the American team in the competition was expected to win. However, Guyana for the first time has brought home both the NAWIRA and the overall championship trophy with a strong all-round performance.

NAWIRA official and former Guyanese national player Conrad Arjoon said that for years he had not seen the standard of rugby that the Guyana team played in the Caribbean. He noted too that the overall standard of play in the competition was a lot higher than last year's tournament. Arjoon said that the Caribbean was catching up with the bigger teams in North America and the rest of the world.

The Guyanese men's performance on the field was described as aggressive and Arjoon said he always felt they had it in them.

"They went to this tournament well prepared by the coaches and they knew what they had to do. It was just a matter of executing and they did that," he said.

The team captain said, "All the guys just stepped it up and delivered. We stepped up our aggression and played ferocious defence and we tackled like we never tackled before. This 'do or die' approach paid off well but the team's victory is also a result of the GRFU's youth programme which was started five years ago."

Assistant Coach Alton Agard said that he was not surprised by the team's victory since everything was beginning to come together after the hard work over the past five years. Captain Troy Arjoon said, "We have been together for about five years and the rest of the Caribbean are now trying to bring in youth players so we have the advantage there."

The local team was also beefed up by the selection of six players who currently play club football in Trinidad and Tobago but were able to come to Guyana for trials after the GRFU sourced reduced cost tickets from BWIA.

Powerful, swift aggression and five years of experience resulted in a formidable team that brought home the gold for Guyana. However, while Guyana's local team were able to maintain their third place position among the Caribbean countries in the competition, a rough start against Trinidad and Tobago powerhouses, followed by another loss against the formidable United States Development Eagles ensured that they did not better last year's third place finish.

Captain of the side Carrin Carter told Stabroek Sport, "We did not stick to the game plan. We were supposed to stick as a team and keep the ball flowing and we also missed a lot of tackles. We need to improve on tackling and ball handling."

Team manager Lewis said that the women's performance got better as the competition progressed. He said that it was unfortunate that they had to play two of the strongest teams in the competition up in front. Coach Agard said that even though the girls scored first against Trinidad and Tobago, they allowed them back in the game with weak tackling and lost possession of the ball too often.

However, the Guyanese were able to hold eventual Caribbean champions Jam-aica to a nil-all draw even though they had beaten Trinidad and Tobago convincingly. "By the time they got to Jamaica who beat the Trinidadians by quite a few points, they drew with Jamaica, which showed that as the contest went on they got better and better," Lewis said. If Guyana had won against Jamaica they would have won the tournament, having beaten Barbados and St. Lucia. Carter said, "It was a really tough competition, we played well but we could have done better."

However, a great achievement for the women was the performance of Colette Hope whom Carter described as the star player. Hope scored 22 points in the competition with excellent speed and kicking. Lewis said that the women's squad was expected to go back into training next Wednesday and might wing out to Trinidad and Tobago next month to compete there.