Photo: Eyal Hakim
USA Rugby South made good work of its trip to Mexico City, defeating the Bahamas, Mexico and Jamaica twice for the Rugby Americas North (RAN) 10s championship. Head coach Chris Martin selected 15 players from nine clubs to the event and the Panthers placed three members on the all-tournament team.
The team opened up with a 45-0 win over the Bahamas, and Mexico kept it close in a 26-14. Jamaica had an equally tough time against Mexico, whose national team was readying for the Rugby World Cup Sevens, winning a 17-14 decision in addition to a 29-15 win over the Bahamas.
USA Kat Roche was also selected as an official for the RAN 10s / Photo: Nikki Penikas
With USA Rugby South and Jamaica going 2-0, the pair booked its place in day two’s final regardless of the outcome in the third pool play round. On Saturday morning, the Americans beat Jamaica 42-5 in the third pool play round and then readied for a rematch in the final.
“Our Head Coach [Chris Martin] told us it was similar to last year with Trinidad & Tobago,” South flyhalf T Fletcher explained. “USA played them and won [in pool play] and got comfortable, and lost the championship match and took silver.
Galdones, Moser, Watkins, Fletcher, Lundy, Jackson / Photo: Eyal Hakim
“We had the opportunity to play Jamaica and see what they were bringing to the table. We knew we couldn’t waltz into the final because Jamaica had nothing to lose,” the Raleigh player added.
The South scored the first try but then Jamaica rallied with the next two scores to lead 12-5 at halftime.
“Jamaica put up a fight. They wanted it. They sought redemption,” Fletcher recalled the intensity. We had a system in place. We had less than a week to learn it and execute it together. We bought in and respected the process. The U-19 USA Boys 15s side was also there and they showed up to cheer us on, yelling, ‘USA’ when we needed them the most!”
Jamaica held onto its lead until nearly the fourth quarter, although the Americans dominated possession and territory. A crucial penalty in Jamaica’s red zone opened up an opportunity for Fletcher to cross from close range, and Lolita Galdones’ conversion tied it up, 12-all.
Fletcher, post-try / Photo: Eyal Hakim
The Panthers lost Kris Hall to a knee injury, but the team had run out of substitutes and had to play down for the rest of the game. Fletcher moved from flyhalf to lock to reinforce the scrum, which had been enjoying success against Jamaica’s set piece. As the clock wore down, the Panthers stole a Jamaica scrum that paved the way for Tiara Littleton break and try. The conversion afforded a 19-12 lead with time for another restart. Not long afterward, however, Fletcher called for an outlet pass and kicked to touch for the win.
“What an amazing experience and one I won’t forget for a long time,” Fletcher enthused. “It’s great to be back and sleep in my own bed, but I miss those girls already. I met ladies that will have ever-lasting friendships with. It’s so much bigger than the game. I got to represent my country playing a sport I love. Not many can say that.”
Additionally, Fletcher, fellow Raleigh teammate Lisa Jackson and Miami’s Morgan Freeman, who’s heading to Lindenwood University in the fall, were named to the all-tournament team.
Next up is the RAN 7s, which takes place Sept. 22-23 in Barbados. Learn more at Rugby Americas North.
graphic courtesy Rugby Americas North
USA RUGBY SOUTH @ RAN 10s
T Fletcher – Raleigh
Morgan Freeman – Miami
Lolita Galdones – Southern Pines
Kris Hall – Miami
Lisa Jackson – Raleigh
Tiara Littleton – Dallas
Sara Lundy – Raleigh
Ashley Mackenzie – Miami
Jen Moser – Charlotte
Mandy Reehling – Nashville
Allison Schrenker – UT Chattanooga
Tanya Sifford – Dallas
Claire Stingely – Beantown
Amanda Watkins – Charlotte
Maddie Windstein – Lagniappe
Chris Martin – head coach
Neil Pietila – asst coach
Joel Bonnaud – asst coach
Nikki Penikas – manager
Luis Rodas – trainer