Kevin "Roosta" Thomas (Lincoln Crooks Photography)
Despite two late tries for Jamaica, from Tahj-Jay Lynch – his second – and Kenneth Walker, it was not enough as they went down 30-26 to USA in a men’s senior international at the Mona Bowl, University of West Indies in Kingston.
In 85-degree heat, the Reggae Warriors led 10-0 early on despite having less possession but the Hawks hit back to be ahead 14-10 at the break, Brooklyn Kings centre Kyle Granby with two of his three tries in the lead up to half time.
Chevaughn "Grinning" Bailey (Lincoln Crooks Photography)
Granby, who also kicked two goals, completed a genuine, five-minute hat trick just after the restart, veteran loose forward and former Toronto Wolfpack professional player Joe Eichhner crossing on the hour mark. The USA built their game plan around solid carries in the middle and deft positional kicks from another former Wales international and ex professional Peter Lupton (Castleford Tigers, Leeds Rhinos, London Broncos). Key for the Hawks were also props Malcolm Webb and Tevita Bryce, who both produced plenty bull dozing runs in the middle.
USA skipper, Peter Lupton, commented: “It was back and forth and we had to deal with some big players, it was tough from start to finish. We only had one session ahead of the game, with the players working on their own fitness. It’s been a good turnaround and a win for us but definitely a success for both sides. I was surprised with the size of the crowd and the support they gave to the Jamaican side. It was a great experience!”
Captain Marvin Thompson challenges for a ball. (Lincoln Crooks Photography)
Jamaica started on the back foot, finding it hard to contain the Hawks pack early on. However, their advantage was always out wide and every time they hit the edges they threatened. Their wide plays resulted in quick 10-0 had and it looked for a moment they might run away with the game, especially with hooker Adrian Hall linking well halves Marvin Thompson and Chevaughn Bailey. However, crucial errors including a knock on at the line allowed the Hawks to claw their way back into the game through their middle forwards and the Reggae Warriors lost their lead advantage going into the half.
Kamarine Williams on Debut. (Lincoln Crooks Photography)
A string of injuries then plagued the Warriors as they lost full back Andrew Simpson, back row Kevin Thomas and centre Ryan Grant. The subsequent positional changes and bench constraint gave the Hawks the perfect edge and the Americans pounced on their advantage with a blitzkrieg of 3 tries within 5 minutes. With a 30-16 lead, the home crowd was stunned into temporary silence.
Despite this, the Reggae Warriors rallied in the final ten minutes with tries from Walker and Lynch, and were unlucky not to score on the final play of the game as centre Oshane Edie was tackled inches from the line. Edie was instrumental in Jamaica's fight back, the diminutive player assisted two of Jamaica's fight back tries and he regularly opened the Hawks defensive line.
Lead head coach, Roy Calvert, said: “I want to thank the Hawks for visiting Jamaica, we had a great turnout of supporters and today will have showcased us to potential sponsors and volunteers, raising our profile here. It was a fantastic occasion despite the narrow loss. We’re 1-1 now for games between the nations played here in Jamaica and are looking forward to the next one.”
Kenneth "Sweetfeet" Walker. (Lincoln Crooks Photography)
Jamaica's Director of rugby and Reggae Warriors Head Coach Romeo Monteith said, " This was a fantastic game of rugby league that had everyone at the edge of their seats. It's pretty significant that the USA national team has been to Jamaica in 2019 and again in 2023, there needs to be more exchanges between the nations of the region in order to grow the game.
Oshane Edie on debut.
We can't sot around and wait for others to organize games and tournaments, as a region, we have to create our own opportunities and we wish to see the USA vs Jamaica rivalry intensify. Both teams agreed to field only domestic based players, and despite the Hawks having two former professionals in their ranks, it was a close contest and it might be an indicator of how close standards are in each nations domestic competitions."
Andrew Simpson, Kamarine Williams, Ryan Grant, Tahj-Jay Lynch, Kenneth Walker, Chevaughn Bailey, Marvin Thompson, Owen Linton, Adrian Hall, Omar Jones, Kevin Thomas, Reinhard Richards, Daniel Graham
Interchanges: Akkem Murray, Kile Nembhard, Hakeem Richards, Oshane Edie.
Tries: Williams (15), Graham (22), Lynch, (50, 77), Walker (80) Goals: Ryan Grant 1/2, Chevaughn Bailey 1/2, Adrian Hall 1/1
David Washington, James Williams, Jason martin, Kyle Granby, Urban Iyo, Ryan Bannerot, Peter Lupton, Tevita Bryce, Mason McCrory, Malcolm Webb, Wes Piggins, Sean Hunt, Joe Eichner
Interchanges: Matt Finnesy, Ethan Ferrick, Gunnar Johnson, Bart Longchamp Tries: Webb (30), Granby (37, 39, 42), Eichhner (60), Bannerot (71) Goals: McCrory 1/4, Granby 2/2
Referee: Kemoy Whyte (Jamaica)
Half Time: 10-14