History was created on Saturday when the parish of St Elizabeth hosted a senior men’s 9-aside rugby league tournament for the first time. Rugby League Jamaica (RLJ) collaborated with the lone community rugby league club in the parish, St Bess Sledgehammers, to stage the RLJ Easter 9s at BB Coke High School in Junction. The tournament was sponsored by Cheddi’s Surveillance Cameras and Digital Services.
The tournament was won by Duhaney Park Red Sharks who defeated Washington Blvd Bulls 21-8 in a thrilling final. Both clubs went undefeated in the group stages with an identical 3-0 record. In the decider, the Bulls raced to an early lead through tries from Javon Lewis and Andree Lee, however, the Red Sharks pulled level before halftime with tries from Shaquille Pollack and Javian Bryan.
In the second half the winners took the ascendancy with a strong defensive display and denied the Bulls further points. They extended their lead with additional tries from Adrian Thomas, Kenneth Walker, Marvin Thompson, and Jenson Morris. Tournament MVP Chevauggn Bailey wrapped up the scoring with a drop goal.
Winning captain and national player Marvin Thompson said, “We wanted our best performance on the day as we have lost out on the last few 9’s titles. Credit to all teams on making the journey to St. Elizabeth and special commendations to St Bess Sledgehammers on organizing a great tournament”.
West Kingston Hyenas copped third place with a close 8-4 win over the Jamaica Defence Force, hosts St Bess Sledgehammers finished 5th with 18-8 win over St Catherine Thundercats and Portmore Rugby League Club took 7th spot with a 15-0 result over the Liguanea Dragons.
Commenting the successful staging of the tournament, RLJ Vice Chair Adrian Hall said, “It was fantastic to see 7 teams travel from Kingston and St Catherine and ensure a successful tournament, we hope to widen the footprint of rugby league in St Elizabeth and the Easter 9s was a good advert for the game. The $70,000 in total price money for the top 3 teams added a special incentive for teams to perform to their best.”
The tournament was the second of four annual 9's the RLJ has introduced to its calendar, the Summer and Christmas 9s now remain, the New Years 9's was played in January.
The tournament provided good preparation for several national players who will compete for Jamaica in the USARL 9s on May 20th in Naples, Florida.