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Senior rugby league returned to Jamaica after a two-year absence due to Covid-19, with RLJ staging game one of a three match series in their national trials between Reds and Blues at the University of West Indies Mona Bowl. The fixtures, played under the Parish Of Residence banner, saw both the men’s and women’s Reds squads claim victory.

The best prospects on the island are split into two squads for POR, with players on the Reds side representing Kingston and St. Andrew and the Blues made up of those from St. Catherine and other parishes. The series started in 2014 and on the men’s side Reds have only ever lost one game. The women’s contest made history, being the first time full contact women’s rugby league was played locally.

In the women game, Reds ran out winners 48-28 winners. Shanique Smith led the way with a total of 24 points from four tries and conversions. Tarja Richards also crossed four times, Latoya Sanchez and Dae-Marie Whyte with one try each. For the Blues, Naomi Dodd led her team with 18 points from four tries and a conversion, while Teresa Smith and Debisha Scarlett crossed for a try each, Smith also adding a goal.

The men’s game saw the lead change hands numerous times and was only settled with three minutes remaining, when Jenson Morris dived over in the right corner for his third try to win it for Reds 20-18. Man of the match Owen Linton and Andrew Simpson were their other try scorers. For Blues, Adrian Thomas bagged two touchdowns and captain Khamisi McKain and Steve Miller one each, Miguel Facey completed their scoring with a conversion.

Reds men’s coach Donovan Jackson said: “It was a great game by both teams, the players gave their all. I’m happy Reds came out with the win, but we have a lot to improve on for the remaining series.”

RLJ director of rugby, Romeo Monteith, was delighted to see senior rugby league back: “It’s fantastic to get the seniors playing again and it’s especially pleasing to see the debut of senior women rugby league. The women’s match is a big deal for us, the players have a big opportunity to qualify for the 2025 Women’s World Cup in France and this game marks the beginning of that journey. We are inviting all talented female athletes to give rugby league a go and be part of history.

“With the men, overall, we are pleased with the level of the players after being out for two years. They all want to represent their country and what is at stake are Reggae Warriors’ spots at the Rugby League World Cup in England at the end of this year, the players are aware of that and the intensity was testament to it.”

The series continues on May 21 and 28, with both games again at the UWI Mona Bowl.

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