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Rugby teams give their all

The results of the weekend Rugby Americas North Sevens at St Clair brought some welcome international action for local fans of the sport, but they also exposed some stark realities about the country’s national teams. Trinidad and Tobago finished just outside the medals in both divisions, whereas Caribbean neighbours Guyana and Jamaica won silver (men) […]

The results of the weekend Rugby Americas North Sevens at St Clair brought some welcome international action for local fans of the sport, but they also exposed some stark realities about the country’s national teams.
Trinidad and Tobago finished just outside the medals in both divisions, whereas Caribbean neighbours Guyana and Jamaica won silver (men) and bronze (women) respectively, on the final afternoon on the St Mary’s College Ground.
Fourth place was disappointing, particularly for the T&T women, who months earlier had fought their way to an outside chance of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics, reaching the repechage playoffs in Ireland. After storming to the last four on the back of three successive wins Saturday, the T&T women looked jaded the following day, going under 5-10 to Jamaica in the semi-finals, before also losing the bronze medal game to Mexico.
Even so, national women’s team coach Carlton Felix felt the team had improved from previous tournaments. “Technically, we performed a lot better, our execution of the skills and game plan and as a team as well as individually, the girls improved and did well,” he told the Express. “It’s just coming down to the last few matches, we sort of ran out of steam and the Jamaicans and even Mexico were able to capitalise on that in the second half.
“All our international tournaments are over two days, so we’re used to it. I think we needed to do a bit more in terms of the preparation to get our (energy) levels higher, so that we would have been able to maintain that intensity and high level of play throughout te two days and not sort of fall away at the end.”
While admitting tiredness was a factor, T&T skipper Alisha Bruce was upbeat in spite of Sunday’s results. “We came really far as a team. As opposed to the other tournaments that we were entered, this was the best of all, even though we didn’t get the results that we wanted, but I am really proud of the performance of my girls,” she said.
On the men’s side, standout Leon Pantor was in no doubt about the fitness factor, especially after losing a heartbreaker of a third-place playoff to Jamaica, 19-24.
“Due to weary bodies and lack of support,” he explained. “We were making the breakthrough, but it was hard to maintain that possession and get over the try line and score. Remember, everybody playing two days of rugby and it’s very hard on our bodies.”
On at least two occasions when he made a clean break, Pantor was forced to ditch the ball when surrounded metres from the Jamaican try line with no red shirts in support.
The 19-year-old had played brilliantly to keep T&T in the game, making the break and handing off to James Phillip for the opening try, scoring on two more breakaways in the second half, and kicking home the conversions himself.
Even so, he defended his teammates, noting the average age of the squad was 22 and describing it as “balanced”. But Pantor admitted there was one area for team improvement that needed to be addressed.
“As you can see, we’re one of the smallest teams in the tournament, and Trinidad has a lot of gym facilities. I think that things should be put into place in terms of preparation of our bodies so that we could be physically up there with the other competition.”
Coach Felix shared his view.
“That’s one of the areas that we definitely have to work on. As I said, we have the speed but in terms of the physical components of it, in terms of matching them up in the one-on-one situations and the rucks, that’s where we sort of falter,” he said.
As for their performance in the tournament, Pantor had a positive outlook. “It has been a bit of redemption. In terms of preparation, we had to earn the support of Trinidad and Tobago, in a sense,” he said. “So that’s why we came out Saturday, we topped our group, we tried to play with passion and pride and heart.”

 

Source: Ashford Jackman, Trinidad Express

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