Peter Lewington, the Bermuda coach, took plenty of positives from his side’s 48-28 defeat at home to USA South in their opening game of the Rugby Americas North Caribbean Championships at the weekend.
Lewington’s first match in charge always promised to be a tough one against the reigning champions and so it proved with the visiting side making a flying start and never relinquishing their dominance over a bellicose Bermuda.
The home side showed plenty of heart and fleeting moments of attacking flair, scoring four tries of their own, leaving Lewington proud and encouraged by his team’s display.
“It was a superb performance,” Lewington said. “I think everyone played to their potential and it was exactly what I asked of them.
“We missed a few tackles early in the game, which cost us the game, really. I’m really pleased with the guys; they gave one hundred per cent.
“We’ll learn from this and take it on to the next two games in the championships [against Trinidad and Tobago, and Cayman Islands]. We aim to win those games.”
USA South opened the scoring in the fourth minute when scrum half Zacc Miller’s tap and go caught Bermuda napping, allowing him to sneak in for the first of his team’s seven tries. Fly half Lucas Baistrocchi applied the conversion.
Five minutes later Miller’s opposite number, Tom Healy, made a superb break from the rear of the scrum to level for Bermuda. Debutant Brian Archibald, a former Scotland Under-21 player, who impressed with his metronomic kicking and decision-making all afternoon, made no mistake from the conversion.
The visiting side then struck twice during two minutes of madness from Bermuda. Wing Mike Williams failed to clean up a grubber kick towards the try line, enabling centre Shaun Riley to ghost in for a try. USA South then scored right from the restart courtesy of forward Jordan Gunderson, with Baistrocchi converting to make it 19-7.
A flashpoint of the first half came when Healy pounced on an USA South attacking breakdown deep inside his half. The Bermuda stalwart ran almost the length of pitch but did not quite have the leg drive and was stopped by the pursuing Riley just yards short of the line.
USA South were soon back in the ascendancy when Miller bundled over for his second, which Baistrocchi kicked for the extra points.
Both teams were then temporarily reduced to 14 men, with Baistrocchi and Healy both shown yellow cards for a skirmish after the USA South man appeared to boot Bermuda forward Dustin Archibald in the back of the head for not releasing the ball when grounded.
With just minutes of the first half remaining, USA South prop Luke Schlotman scored between the posts for a try which Miller, in the absence of the sin-binned Baistrocchi, somehow missed.
It was Bermuda who came out of the blocks the quickest in the second period, Alex Brown scoring down the left after riding a high tackle from Michael Martinez, who received a yellow card to briefly reduce USA South to 13 players.
Any hopes Bermuda had of mounting a comeback were soon punctured, though, when wing David Coleman broke down the left before being superbly tackled by Danny Pell. The second-phase ball was picked up by substitute scrum half Jarrett Gartin, who wriggled through to make it 36-14. Baistrocchi, who had returned from the sin bin along with Healy, drop-kicked the extra points to make it 38-14.
Bermuda might not be the regional force they once were — they won back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012 — but their never-say-die attitude and promising performances from some of their newcomers points to a brighter future.
A lovely passing move between Brown and Dan Cole fed Dill for his first try of the afternoon to reduce the arrears. Archibald, the former Sterling County fly half, once again made no mistake from the conversion.
USA South’s response was swift and emphatic with substitute David Williams powering over the line for his side’s seventh try, which Baistrocchi converted to make it 45-21 before kicking a penalty just minutes later to add another three points.
Bermuda were not done yet, though, with Dill scoring his second just before the final whistle to ensure his team finished on a high note.
Up next for Bermuda are Trinidad away on Saturday, a “hard-running, hard-hitting team”, according to Lewington, who said he witnessed many encouraging signs against USA South.
“I take away the passion, the skill and dedication of the guys, which will roll on to the next two of games of the championships,” he said. “We’ve done some research and watched a few videos of Trinidad’s games. They’re a hard-running, hard-hitting team, but so are we.”
Bermuda: D Archibald, P Dunkley, T DeSilva, D Richardson, T Greenslade, A Campbell, T Healy, B Archibald, A Brown, A Doyling, C McGowan, N Burgess, D Cole, M Williams, J Cedenio, D Pell, J Quigley, C Boyce, J Francis, M Dill, C Smith.
USA South: L Schlotman, J Hadley, S Cappello, C Storey, W Gunderson, A Grant, H Erasmus, Z Miller, L Baistrocchi, D Coleman, S Carmcamo, S Riley, C Kennan, M Martinez, M Fontana, S Dawley, E Winel, W Hardaway, J Gatlin, C Sillay, D Williams, P Audino.