By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
It was a historic day for the BVI’s Men’s Rugby team with several firsts wrapped up in one. Led by an ironclad defensive effort, the BVI flogged Curacao for the first time; shut out their first opponent; won their first North American Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) South Cup Zone League; won their first home game in NACRA play, and advanced out of the group unbeaten for the first time in its history to face Barbados, following a 19-0 Saturday afternoon drubbing of Curacao.
It all began unfolding seven minutes into play after Shamaire Spencer scored the first try and Rory Thornton converted for the BVI’s 7-0 lead. Noel Maxwell outran Curacao’s defenders just before halftime for 12-0 edge. Just before halftime, the BVI made one of two critical defensive goal line stands to deny Curacao’s tries and capped the scoring in the last minute on Austin Keil’s try, for the historic victory.
“To come away from this championships with three wins from three games is just absolutely incredible and we’ve been working so hard and it shows in each game we’ve played,” noted Captain Roan Thornton. “Last year we had two home games that should have benefitted us but it didn’t. We kept dropping our heads at halftime we lost our leads and ended up losing the whole thing. This year, to comeback from our mistakes, make up for last year has just been absolutely rewarding and it’s just strengthening the program.”
Coach Sherlock “Solo” Solomon said they should have had a bigger margin of victory. “I expected a bit more scoring because we put a lot of pressure on them and we didn’t get the results we wanted in terms of more tries,” he noted. “The defense was awesome—we didn’t let in on any tries and I think that was great—that was an area we spent some time working on and I’m happy we did step up and shut the opposition down.”
Curacao’s manager Gabriel Breuer said the BVI was the better team. “I don’t like the result, but it’s a fact and they had the better plan,” he said. “It’s a lousy pitch—that’s also a reason—but they had to play on a lousy pitch too and we are disappointed. But, they were better.”
Thornton explained that in last year’s Curacao game, they had a lot of young players, the defense wasn’t as strong, they missed a lot of tackles, gave up a lot of points and every try last year was the same.
“They were just splitting through our defense and scoring tries. This year, it was just solid,” he noted. “We had the younger guys making tackles really well, but I think the key was getting out there and wanting it more than them. We are louder, more aggressive and played a much more controlled game—they played our game rather than vice versa like last year—our fitness was also key because we had been working on it.”
After losing to Barbados by a try in their last encounter, Solomon said they are ready to take them on. He added that they have some housekeeping to do in the fitness department as they are playing a better team and have to be more prepared.
“Mentally, we’re ready for Barbados,” he said. “But we have to step up more physically.”