18 Nov 2018
Americas Qualifiers USA 10 - Jamaica 16 - Report
The Reggae Warriors are going to RLWC2021
“ONE love - Kingston, London, Bradford, Leeds - one love.”
With that, Romeo Monteith - a man who has dedicated his life to rugby league in Jamaica - ushered in the epoch of the Reggae Warriors. Rugby league has a new World Cup country, the Caribbean Island qualifying for England 2021 with a gripping 16-10 win over the United States at Jacksonville’s Hodges Stadium.
As referee Ben Thaler blew full-time after a scoreless second half, the combination of British based heritage players and a domestic Jamaicans leapt in the air and embraced. Others collapsed from exhaustion. After beating the Hawks for the first time ever - consigning the US to a repechage 12 months from now - they will set their sights on changing the face of British rugby league by engaging 800,000 people of Jamaican origin in the UK over the next three years.
“We’ll never miss another World Cup, we’ll be in every one from now on!”
jubilant stalwart Joe Brown boasted.
It was a gripping, bruising contest, the Jamaicans opened up a 16-0 lead by the 29th minute, only for the Americans to touch down twice in the final five minutes of the half to set up an unbelievably tense second half. The US lost their centre Brandon Anderson, scorer of four tries against Chile on Tuesday, in the opening minutes to a hamstring injury.
That cost them some strike power but in the end, the Reggae Warriors had to tackle themselves to a standstill and did so.
It was apparently from the kick-off that Jamaica were of a mind to make history in this twilight clash at the University Of North Florida. That kick-off was a shaggy grubber which found touch, befuddling the Americans and giving the visitors the ball back.
Halfback Jy-mel Coleman landed penalty goals in the sixth and 15th minutes before lock Joel Farrell bustled his way over on 20 minutes after some disciplined and controlled exertion of pressure on the Hawks’ line. Coleman’s conversion made it 10-0 - a big worry for a country with designs on hosting the 2025 tournament.
It became an even bigger worry when winger Jacob Ogden posted another Reggae Warriors try on 29 minutes after simply making the extra man in the left corner. The kicking of London Skolars’ Coleman continued to be on-target for a lead that looked difficult to reel in. Not so difficult, as things turned out. Halfback Connor Donahue negotiated his way through the defence in heavy traffic five minutes before halftime and then winger Ryan Burroughs posted his fourth try of the week in the final 60 seconds of the session.
London Broncos’ Ogden was held up by scrambling defence in one of several scoring opportunities in the second half but in the end the scoreboard attendant wasn’t bothered on the road to a memorable result.
“Unbelievable - I’m a little bit lost for words which is probably a first for me,”
said Jamaica coach Jermaine Coleman.
“The effort, the commitment, the time they put into it just to be here makes it that much more special.
“We’re a part of history and we’ll always be a part of history. We’re the ones that came here and did it. The three groups prior to us that came over and tried to do and were unsuccessful … we’re all a part of it.
“Wayne Reittie who’s been here before, Richie Barnett who’s been here before, they’re the the players that we’ve done it for.
“Their willingness and their passion and their desire to work for their country and their own heritage is outstanding.”
United States coach Sean Rutgerson was visibly shattered by the defeat.
“I was happy to come back with a couple of tries after the massive penalty count against us,” he said.
Asked if he was still confident of qualifying via next year’s recharge, he said: “We haven’t even thought about that. We’ll have to sit down and take a look at it.”