The USA South Panthers held on late to escape with a 23-19 win against a spirited Guyana outfit in a thriller yesterday at the National Park.
More importantly, Hein Erasmus’ men were able to lift the Rugby America’s North (RAN) 15s trophy while exacting revenge for a 30-27 shock defeat three years ago.
Both teams produced gritty defensive performances on the muddy turf and exchanged scoring plays throughout the duration of the game but a lackluster first half put paid to the efforts of the second half surge of the local outfit.
Zach Miller’s name was the first on the scoresheet in the 19th minute when he was unerringly accurate with a penalty.
Ten minutes later, Erasmus scored the first try of the game to put the Panthers up eight-nil. A brilliant try by flanker, Wayne Chermerly who ran more than 30 meters down the left hand touchline, helped the visitors to a 13-0 lead at halftime.
Both sides came out intent on stopping the opponent and put on a defensive clinic in the second half. However 20 minutes after the halftime whistle, the local team’s aggression got the best of them and enabled Miller to bury his second penalty to stretch the advantage to 16-nil.
The two evenly match sides continued to go back and forth but 10 minutes later, winger, Patrick King brought the crowd to life with a try from mid field. Godfrey Broomes then promptly kicked the conversion to give the host seven points.
Jordan Gunderson’s try and Miller’s conversion with seven minutes to go put the USA side up 23-7 and seemed to shut the door on any thoughts of a comeback.
But two quick tries by Osei McKenzie and another Broomes conversion had the green-clad crowd buzzing with anticipation of a repeat of 2014.
However, the crowd’s and the players’ burning desire for a comeback win was soon extinguished with the blow of the final whistle.
Following the hard-fought game, Head Coach, Rene Daniel noted that team work was the key to his side’s success. He then lauded the nature of the local players and thanked the stakeholders and citizens for making the squads stay a hospitable one.
Meanwhile, captain of the national team, Ryan Gonsalves told the media that his team will now turn its attention to the shorter format of the game (7s) since there will no longer have to participate in 15s matches.
With the win, the first on Guyana’s soil, the USA South Panthers will continue their march to secure a spot in the 2019 World Cup.