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USA South Holds Off New-Look Jamaica to Win RAN U19 Championship

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USA South Holds Off New-Look Jamaica to Win RAN U19 Championship

Photo Rugby Americas North.

The USA Rugby South U19s once again won the Rugby Americas North championship, beating hosts Jamaica 18-15 in the final.

The South, which represents the USA in this tournament every year, opened up pool play with a 19-0 shutout of Cayman and a 17-5 win over Trinidad & Tobago.

Perennial challengers Mexico were not at this tournament (although they did send their women's team to the women's competition, where they took 3rd). This opened up things for anyone looking to challenge the South, and Jamaica stepped up, beating Bermuda 29-3 and Guyana 36-0.

That set up the semis with Jamaica beating Guyana 37-0 and USA South shutting out Cayman 20-0.

So on to the final. Jamaica, like the USA, is a country where many point out the depth of athletes in that country and expect that to be leveraged into rugby success at some point. This Jamaican team featured a big, strong group of forwards and some speed. Unity of play, however, is another question.

USA South got on the scoreboard just about 90 seconds in when flyhalf Quinn Vorster of Oceanside in South Carolina angled through a gap and just barely made it to the corner. The Panthers kept up the pressure but little errors kept the score at 5-0. Jamaica, meanwhile, played a fairly high-risk style of rugby, and that, combined with a hard-hitting defense was pressuring USA South in their own way. 

Twelve minutes in Jamaica opened things up after some slopped ball of a scrum. A chip ahead was tipped, allowing everyone to be onside. As a result Jamaica broke through, recycled quickly, and fullback Darnell Simeon-Gordon sped over. The kick was good and Jamaica led 7-5. USA South answered after Jamaica was offside on a kick and Vorster put the kick over. But Jamaica answered, getting a Diontay King, who cut through impressively to make it 12-8 at halftime.

So the USA South had some work to do and a Jamaica penalty made it 15-11 as the game wore on.

The Panthers just couldn't convert field position into points as the Jamaican defense was tenacious and opportunistic. 

USA South camped out in the Jamaican 22 for about 15 minutes after that. They could have taken a shot at goal when they earned a penalty, but instead opted for the scrum or lineout. Jamaica's tackling was very good and they were organized defensively. So it took a long time; a very long time. Finally the USA South forwards resolved to bash it ahead but, more than that, keep the ball protected.

It worked and it forced Jamaica to make tackle after tackle.

After a long period of phases close to the tryline, the Panthers got a penalty. They tapped but were stopped. Jamaica was penalized once more, and Boca Raton scrumhalf Jaxson Patterson tapped quickly and sniped through to score. The conversion was good and USA South led 18-15.

That was it. Ten more minutes were left in the game and they were played once again in Jamaica's end. The hosts just couldn't get into position to create scoring chances, and while the USA South Panthers were not clinical, they did close out the game well.

Jasper Richardson

It was a tough loss for Jamaica.

"In the pre-match prep we knew how much these boys want it," said captain Jasper Richardson. "There is responsibilities all around the board for that result, and we'll come together as a unit, we'll fix it, and we'll be back next year. I couldn't be prouder of the boys. A group of boys that come together and represent a new style of Jamaican rugby."

Their play, especially in the semis, showed what Jamaican rugby has become.

Patterson, who captained the USA team and scored the game-winner, said "we knew this was a very long game. The game's not over until the whistle blows and as long as we could keep playing hard and keep playing together like a brotherhood, we could come out on top."