by John Devonport…
Saturday June 25 2011
Both sides were first-round knockout losers in the NACRA tournament, with Jamaica losing
narrowly to Cayman and the USA similarly to Mexico. The South, driven by their Mexican
experience, challenged Jamaica to play in Jamaica. This was accepted, IRB approval was given and
the game was on.
The South had four team changes from the Mexico game due to injury and availability. Mathew Hughson and Ty Elkins from Charlotte were drafted into the backs, with Jarret Falcon (New Orleans) and Dave Meehan (Boca Raton) joining the forwards.
Jamaica had not hosted a non-Caribbean touring team for over 20 years, so this was
new territory for them in an organizational and playing sense, and it was only the second
overseas journey for the South. The Jamaica RFU is also going through some major
restructuring under the capable hands of CEO Anne Shirley while having to compete for
playing resources with a well-financed (UK) Rugby League program on the island, so the
challenges were many and various.
The game was played in the beautiful setting of the UTECH grounds in Kingston, settled in
under the Blue Mountains with a temperature of 82 degrees offset by a nice breeze. JRFU had
prepared a great surface on close to a full-sized pitch.
The referee was none other than Scott Harland, NACRA’s Canadian development director,
who had also managed to jam in a referee course and a Level 1 coaching course into his two
days on the island!
Jamaica kicked off supported by a brisk breeze and the honors were even as each side felt
each other out. First blood to the South in the 10th minute as scrum half Anthony Alexander
(Little Rock) finished off some great approach work by the forwards. His try was converted
by club mate Chance Hugh, who had certainly brought his kicking boots with him. 7-0 10
The forwards continued to seek supremacy on both sides and Jamaica showed flashes of
brilliance with dangerous break-outs by their talented and fast backs, which asked many
questions of the South defense, but they were up to it.
In the 20th minute, a concerted drive by the South pack through multiple phases saw #
7 Tim Barford of Loughborough University, who had taken over pack leadership while skipper
Shawn O’Brien (Johnson City) was off for repairs, drive over from close in. Conversion by
Hugh took the score to 14-0.
Jamaica continued to press for cracks in the South defense and were eventually rewarded
with a break away try coming from pressure. 28 minutes, score 14-5.
The game ebbed and flowed both ways, before a game ending injury to hooker Owen Sharer (University of South Carolina) saw him replaced by Jarret Falcon of the successful D2 national champions New Orleans, with Barford moving to hooker. Some tight
exchanges up front saw Scott Terrell (Huntsville) gone for the game with an ankle injury to
be replaced by David Dave Meehan
(Boca Raton) on 39 minutes.
The pack stepped up the pressure on Jamaica creating more and more opportunities for the
South backs, who were becoming increasingly penetrative and confident. Then, man of the
match Mark Fulmer (Little Rock) delivered two killer blows with two tries in the final two minutes of the first half, with one converted. Half time score: South 26, Jamaica 5
Skipper O’Brien did not return for the second half, and was replaced by Rob Hoffman of New
Orleans at 8. The South also brought speedster Ty Elkins (Charlotte) on to add fresh legs to the
attack at the start of the second half. These impact changes were immediately effective
as South piled on the pressure. Jason Forseman was able to wriggle through for a try
14 minutes into the second half as Jamaica were pinned back with some great tactical
kicking from No. 10 Jeff Reuther, who continued to put Jamaica on the back foot. This try was again
converted by Chance to make it 33-5.
Jamaica would not lie down, soaking up waves of approach work by the rejuvenated South
pack, but the pressure told when Fulmer was able to score his third try of the game on the
hour through a well worked overlap. 40-5.
Jamaica made their changes and their strength in off-loads led to some anxious moments
as they penetrated the South line only to often lose the ball on turnovers coming from
resolute defensive tackling by the South backs.
A counter-attack saw the South go further ahead with an opportunist try ahead by New Orleans
sub Rob Hoffman, which went unconverted. 45-5
The South closed the final quarter by tightening the screws. They brought on their
subs — Abukuppeh of Little Rock and trainer Sean Borman of Boca — before delivering the final blow with a try from Mathew Hughson of Charlotte, the score again
converted by the impeccable boot of Chance, who was 6 for 8 on the day. Final score 52-5.
Considering Jamaica have had so little exposure to visiting teams they lacked for nothing
in spirit and defiance and at times showed the bursts of electrifying pace that have defined
their sevens success.
A strong bond has been formed between to two sides through the game and the hospitality
which was second-to-none.
Both teams look forward to further exchanges as Jamaica regroup and rebuild and the
South continue to benefit from their close relationship with their NACRA brothers in this
emerging partnership which can only benefit all.
1 BRAD HYMAN LITTLE ROCK
2 OWEN SHEARER UNIV SOUTH CAROLINA
3 NATHANIEL GREENE JOHNSON CITY
4 SCOTT TERRELL HUNTSVILLE
5 JOHN LUHRSEN NAPLES
6 JOSH WOLVERTON LITTLE ROCK
7 TIM BARFORD LOUGHBOROUGH COLLEGE
8 SHAWN O’BRIEN JOHNSON CITY (CAPTAIN)
9 ANTHONY ALEXANDER LITTLE ROCK
10 JEFF REUTHER NEW ORLEANS
11 MARK FULMER LITTLE ROCK
12 MATHEW HUGHSON LITTLE ROCK
13 JASON FORSEMAN JOHNSON CITY
14 ROSS BELLACCHI NEW ORLEANS
15 CHANCE HUGH LITTLE ROCK
DANIEL BRICKEY LITTLE ROCK
THAD ABUKUPPEH LITTLE ROCK
DAVID MEEHAN BOCA RATON
JARRET FALCON NEW ORLEANS
TY ELKINS CHARLOTTE
ROBERT HOFFMAN NEW ORLEANS
SEAN BORMAN BOCA RATON