Definitely putting that one on the CV.
After missing out on our fixture a few weeks ago due to injury, I was targeting this grudge match fixture as my comeback. Things were sore but playable in the ankle department, so I was selected for the squad for Bahamas away in Nassau.
Not yet knowing if I’d made the starting lineup, we left work early on Friday and headed down to the airport. Following a brief interview with the press we took off on a short 90 minute flight to Nassau. We arrived around sunset and went straight to the team base. ‘El Greco’ hotel was barely pushing 1 star status but it was perfect for 30 lager laiden lads for a weekend.
Friday evening we went for a strictly no alcohol dinner, and after a debacle over rooms (myself and Bobby being tour Virgins got passed from room to room until we found somewhere comfortable to lay down in), we got an early night.
The following morning we headed for a morning training session on a dusty track near to the beach. After a sweaty hour of running through our set pieces, brunch was served at the nearby cricket club. Aside from it not being a patch on provo’s golf course brunch, it was good fodder before a big game.
Back to the hotel for a few hours rest before the coach took us to the rugby ground.
The stand being similar to our own, but with the pitch seeming to be more bark than grass, we assessed the conditions and started our warm up drills. 30 minutes until Kickoff and the crowd was starting to gather. The shirt giving ritual was observed and each player was applauded as the jerseys were handed out by the coach.
The two teams lined up facing the stand bisected by the halfway line, and the DJ played the anthems. Being one of only a handful of English, our rendition of the TCI anthem ‘god save the queen’, was belted out in small numbers, weekly training from navy school made sure I’d never forget the words. The Bahamas anthem was long and not the best to sing to, so ours still sounded better despite the home crowd.
The referee blew his whistle to start the game, and after a brief 30 seconds waiting for the DJ to turn off the chilli peppers, the ball was launched high into the air by Bahamas, caught by TCI but instantly penalised, resulting in the Bahamas number 10 getting 3 points on the board in the first minute- not ideal, but it didn’t phase us.
After the restart and comprising the first 20 minutes of the game, TCI battered up the field slowly but comfortably. Keeping possession was our game plan, and after a sweaty 15 minutes and countless penalties against Bahamas, we had the ball on the Bahamas 5 meter line and throwing our own lineout. We bundled the ball over the line, only for it to be disallowed due to crossing, as the forward carrying the ball detached and re-attached to the maul.
Coming away with no points here was disappointing, but the opposition looked tired after rampant defending against a composed team.
For the last 10 minutes of the first half, Bahamas enjoyed a bit more possession and converted another penalty to make it 5-6 at the break.
Feeling generally good about our game so far, we concentrated on keeping clear heads and minimalising high tackles and penalties.
Swapping sides and with the wind now more in our favour, we hoped to kick longer, but Bahamas seemed to bolster their penalty concessions and we had less kicking opportunities but still made ground.
TCI fullback put in a great individual effort to score a converted try shortly after the second half started. A few minutes later an unfortunate tackle by TCI saw serious injury to the Bahamas flanker meaning a 10 minute wait whilst he received treatment and the sin bin for the TCI scrum half. Bahamas kicked the points but TCI were ahead at 9-12
With a 14 man team, we took the winger off and exposed the backs to Bahamas who took full advantage, it wasn’t long before Bahamas managed to get a converted try and started to put pressure on us, but still we felt we had a good grip on the game. 12-16
TCI kicked off and it went out on the opposition 22m. Bahamas lineout was solid, and the ball was shuffled back for a defensive kick but their number 10 clearly misjudged TCI wing Davidson’s speed and it was charged down right on the try line. The ball was sent high into the sun and being the closest player, I was able to gather it up unopposed and leap across the chalk for a try to cancel out Bahamas. Converting the extras, TCI were back in the lead 16-19.
A TCI forwards try off the scrum, saw us take the lead to 26-16, before Bahamas reduced it to 26-19 with a penalty of their own.
Still with a converted try to draw the game, Bahamas were rampant and hunting, luckily for us with so many stoppages for injuries, they failed to pick up significant momentum, however they knew that their youthful backs had the edge on us, and after a couple of good passes out of the tackle, Bahamas were running into the try zone to touch it down under the posts. Luckily for us, our substitute scrum half, kept up with the would-be try scorer and just managed to push him into touch on the dead ball line! Fortunately the ref and the assistant, and obviously all the TCI team saw this and we had a 22m dropout, with luck on our side it was time to kill the game, keep the ball, and that’s exactly what we did.
Final score 26-19 TCI, a historic victory. The first time TCI have beaten the Bahamas and saw us rise to 18th in the American world rugby rankings.
The rest of the evening I cannot divulge, but needless to say Nassau didn’t disappoint and after a pretty miserable flight back was had by all, we were relieved to be back in Provo where I’d not realised how lucky we were to have such great beaches.