Jamie Barnwell, Bermuda Rugby’s head coach hailed his side’s unity after they kicked off their Rugby Americas North Championship campaign in perfect fashion with a convincing 43-14 victory over Jamaica at National Stadium on Saturday.
In the first meeting between the sides in Bermuda since 1975, the home side dominated much of the proceedings, with a hat-trick of tries from Tom Healy being added to by Jamie Baum, Alex Brown and a double from Conor McGlynn, with the boot of Brian Archibald adding the remaining 8 points from successful conversions.
The only glaring negative from the match for the hosts was a five-minute spell at the end of the first half in which ill-discipline resulted in McGlynn and Darren Richardson being shown yellow cards and sent to the sin-bin, gifting Jamaica a route back into the match with tries from Didan Smith and Haydn Annakie, both being converted by Noah Jarvis.
However, after regrouping in the second-half and securing a first victory under his reign, Barnwell was left delighted despite conceding there are still improvements required ahead of playing the winner of Guyana and Guadeloupe in their next encounter, in their quest to become Caribbean champions.
“I’m delighted with the result but there is still plenty to work to do going forward,” said Barnwell, who took up the voluntary role in February.
“We had some discipline issues in the first half and went down to 13 men, but to stay in the game and then go on and score more tries shows the team are really unified and that is all credit to them.
“We had to soak up a lot of pressure from a very athletic Jamaican team but the players understood perfectly how to build on momentum during the game and take control, I’m delighted with them.
“We haven’t been together as squad for very long. I was 99 percent confident because we prepared really well but there is always that one percent doubt because it was our first real test with me as head coach against a very good opposition.
“It was only a tiny doubt and I’m delighted we managed to carry out our game plan and I’m just really pleased for the whole squad.
“We set ourselves the target of being Caribbean champions and we are already looking to the next game.
“We are on track for what we want to do. This was a must win game for us and to come away with a convincing win is fantastic.”
The home side raced into a 22-0 lead just after 28 minutes courtesy of tries from Healy, Baum, Brown and McGlynn, with Archibald adding two successful conversions, having missed his first two.
However, with a little over five minutes remaining in the first half, ill discipline from Bermuda gifted Jamaica hope of getting back into the encounter.
A period of sustained pressure from the visiting side, led to the home side being reduced to 14 men temporarily as McGlyn was shown a yellow card. Jamaica immediately seized on their man advantage as Smith crashed over, with Jarvis adding the simple conversion to reduce the score to 22-7.
Things went from bad to worse for the home side moments before the interval, as Richardson was also sent to the sin-bin, leaving Bermuda with just 13 men for the remainder of the half. They were made to rue their poor discipline as Annakie surged through a gap in Bermuda’s depleted defensive line to score the visiting side’s second try in a matter of minutes.
There was just enough time for Jarvis to slot the simple conversion between the posts and send the sides in at the break with the scoreline at 22-14.
Bermuda started the second-half with a man still in the sin-bin but they managed to extend their lead despite their numerical disadvantage as, Mglinn, back on the field, made an immediate impact, diving over, following a powerful driving maul. Archibald added the conversion to take the scoreline to 29-14.
With their full contingent of 15 players back in action, Bermuda regained control of the match and came close to scoring again in the 50th minute as Kai Edwards was stopped right on the try line in the bottom right corner. However, from the proceeding driving scrum, Healy found a gap to dive over and add his second try of the afternoon. Once again Archibald stepped up to add the conversion, extending Bermuda’s lead to 34-14.
After a 20-minute lull in action, Bermuda added one final try with ten minutes remaining as Healy seized on a loose ball from a line-out to crash over and complete his hat-trick. Archibald was left with the simple conversion to take the score to 43-14 and wrap up proceedings on an impressive afternoon for the home side.