The victorious national men’s 7s rugby team returned home yesterday from Mexico to a heroes’ welcome, with fans and the top brass of the GRFU turning out to receive the NACRA Champions.
Overjoyed members of their families and also the media hi-fived and cheered the players and support staff as they stepped out of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri.
The team clinched for Guyana its seventh championship on Thursday which paves the way for them to compete at the Hong Kong 7s in three months free of cost. That tournament will serve as the perfect warm-up for the NACRA Championships three months later, a qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
It also ensured that the qualification of the seven-time champs for the Pan Am Rugby Championships slated for Canada next July.
Speedy winger, Patrick King who won his first cap for Guyana at the tournament, was the hero in the thrilling final against the host and 2012 winner, was the most sought after at the airport.
King, who recorded four tries (a hat trick after half time) in Guyana’s 33-28 come-from-behind triumph (trailed 21-7 at the half) to clinch the title reiterated that there was no pressure on him when it was crunch time.
“When I saw Mexico was up 21, I was just praying to go on the field, just to help my team to win and that is what I did. In my first championship and knowing that I won it for Guyana is a really great feeling and I could not have asked for anything better.”
Captain Ryan Gonsalves noted that the team worked hard and deserved to be champions.
“I am proud of my team mates. Thanks to all the players, without each individual performance, this win wouldn’t have been possible,” he said.
Gonsalves who also captained the 15s team to a come-from-behind victory against USA South in June added that before the game, the mantra was ‘belief’.
“It was very tough but before the game started we had a huddle and the word for the game was belief.
“We knew it would not have been easy, Mexico expectedly brought the game to us but we just stuck to our plans because we know they only have a good first half.”
He pointed out that “To come from behind in 7s with a 21-7 deficit in the second half is huge. Some other teams would have folded but we never gave up and we came away with the win.
“This year we have made history in winning the 15s and the 7s and we just need the support for rugby that it deserves.”
The team was received by the union’s president, Peter Green and other officials.
Green congratulated the players, praised them for not losing their focus in a high-pressure encounter against Mexico and then labelled their achievement as “historical and monumental.”
“I am happy the boys tackled the pressure until the last minute.
This was historical and monumental, they never gave up and kept going, we seem to have a penchant for coming from behind to win.”
The GRFU head also disclosed that the union will do its bit to reward the players but much support will be needed for the tournaments next year.
“The union is giving each of them incentives but these players are elite players and we need to have the money to back us to be able to employ a nutritionist, a world level coach and have other necessary programmes in place, it is all about pumping more money to produce the best possible team for the tournaments ahead.” (Emmerson Campbell)