Caribs claim rugby KO title

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RECENTLY-CROWNED national league champions Carib RFC took possession of their second major title of the domestic rugby season on Saturday, beating Harvard by 17 points in the Open Knockout final at the Queen’s Park Savannah.

In the process, Caribs exacted revenge for their elimination from Big Four title contention the previous weekend, when Harvard had stunned them 10-3 in the semi-finals of that tournament.

Caribs never trailed in Saturday’s final and came away 30-13 winners, even though their plucky opponents kept within striking distance until the men in all-white pulled away in the final 20 minutes.

The match turned into a showpiece for the talents of Caribs’ Bazz Waqa, who sealed the victory with a try and a penalty in the closing minutes. The Fijian dead-ball specialist accounted for 18 points, consisting of a try, two conversions and three penalties in a man-of-the-match performance.

From the outset Harvard, fourth-place finishers in the league, appeared to lack the conviction that had restricted Caribs to just three points in their Big Four encounter. Just four minutes into the contest, Caribs’ Jamal Stewart, on a jinking run, sold a defender a dummy and raced to the try line before Harvard could recover, and Waqa converted for a 7-0 lead.

Shortly after, another Carib right-side attack broke down; but out of the ruck, they switched to the left and Stewart had a clearer path to his second try. Waqa struck home his second spot-kick and they were up 14-0 after just eight minutes.

Slowly, the men in dark green fought back. On the quarter-hour, Harvard’s burly Mark Griffith forced a push-over try from out of a ruck near the Carib try line, and Ryan Hinkson’s spot kick tagged on the extra points.

As tempers flared and fouls mounted, penalties were dished out. Waqa struck one home for Carib, but soon after, Hinkson missed one for Harvard, and Carib led 17-13 at half-time.

Harvard looked much better organised in defence on the resumption and there were worried faces in the Carib camp as their adversaries repelled every attack in the initial 20 minutes of the second half.

But it all fell apart for Harvard when Waqa struck twice in the space of five minutes, kicking home another penalty and then scoring a try wide on his team’s left flank, following an excellent exchange of passes. The challenging angle meant little to the left-footed Carlon Alexander, who booted home the conversion to make it 27-13.

Physical exchanges escalated as the end approached; Harvard’s Hinkson was sin-binned and two Carib players were red-carded. Waqa’s third penalty in the final seconds went almost unnoticed—it was already over. Carib RFC had added another lien on the Marcus Minshall Cup.

On Saturday, they will attempt to claim a third trophy when they renew rivalry with Trinidad Northern in their annual clash for the Bruno Browne Cup.

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