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South Panthers Win RAN u19 Championship

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South Panthers Win RAN u19 Championship

USA Rugby South shocked Mexico to win the Rugby Americas North U19 championship Saturday.

The Panthers went into the game having just escaped a very athletic Trinidad & Tobago team, while Mexico, the defending champions, had made it comfortably through pool play.

But the South team showcased much more intelligent play than they did against T&T, securing possession, and holding onto it despite some very physical Serpientes defense. 

It didn’t hurt that the Panthers scored right off the kickoff - Mexico was penalized in the ruck and wing Sean O’Driscoll slotted the kick for a 3-0 lead. 

Mexico powered back to press for a possible try, but the Panthers held them off, and then the midfield went to work. Andrew Rappe and Calvin Gentry were outstanding on offense and defense. And it was the physical tackling of those two that created a turnover and led to wing Malcolm Easley getting some space out wide and scoring the first try.

That made for a lead of 8-0, and O’Driscoll added a penalty to make it 11-0.

Daniel Pretorius photos.
South U19s South U19s

Mexico did not back down, and after kicking a penalty ran the ball nicely through the backs to make it a one-point game at 11-10.

Mexico almost took the lead later in the first half with a breakaway out of their own 22 that could have finished with a try. But the final pass was a shade low for captain and outside center Franco Guerrero, and he couldn’t hold onto it. Instead, the first half ended 11-10. But in the second half, the South quickly took control with Gentry picking up at the base of the ruck and powering right through for the try. O’Driscoll slotted the extras to make it 18-10.

In a back-and-forth second half, the Panthers looked to be in trouble when Gentry went off with an injury. However, his replacement, Josh Ingles, pulled off a huge play after Shea O'Hanlon kicked ahead out of the South 22. The ball hit the ground, and normally would have rolled downfield. But the rugby ball is a funny shape, and it instead bounced back the way it had come - much to the surprise of the Mexico wing- and Ingles caught the ball on the gallop and raced in from 50 meters out.

That try made it 25-10 and put the South in control.

Mexico came back with what looked to be a superb try from deep in their own end - Guerrero again the guy testing the South D - but that try was called back for foul play - use of the boot - deep in Mexico’s end. The game ended soon thereafter.

It was a good performance by the South in that they fixed many of their issues from the earlier game. They kept possession, hit the rucks hard, and hit the tackles hard, too.

But Mexico was a shade unlucky, also. Guerrero could have scored two tries that didn’t make it to the scoreboard, and had he done so, it might have been a different game.

“Coach Mark did a great job recruiting more mobile players and teaching our backline how to control their backline,” said Gentry after the game. “He said ‘be intense’ and we came out and punched them in the nose before they punched us.”

“Hats off to Mexico, what a great team they are,” added Coach Mark Williams - the Coach Mark that Gentry was talking about. “It took us three tries to beat these guys.”

Williams said the substitutions made a big difference and it was important to have a full squad performance, but also the overall team fitness was crucial when you’re playing three tough games in the space of a week.      

 

USA South 25

Tries: Easley, Gentry, Ingles

Convs: O’Driscoll 2

Pens: O’Driscoll 2

 

Mexico 10

 

In other action, Trinidad & Tobago took 3rd with a 60-6 win over Cayman Islands, while Bermuda beat Turks & Caicos 20-7 for 5th.