by RENALDO DORSETT
The Bahamas Rugby Football Union’s national team continues to struggle against Mexico in regional competition.
Mexico delivered 32 unanswered points in the second half to defeat the Bahamas 39-3 in the Rugby Americas North Zone Championships, at the Winton Rugby Centre Saturday afternoon.
The tournament also serves as a 2019 Rugby World Cup Qualifier.
A penalty kick conversion late in the first half from Brian Baker was the lone score for team Bahamas in the rout.
The Bahamas set the tone for their defensive effort in the first half when they sustained an early offensive attack and responded with an attack of their own into Mexico territory.
The Bahamas had an opportunity to score on a penalty, however first attempt Baker’s attempt hit the upright.
After both teams missed opportunities early, Fherio Samano scored the game’s first try with just under five minutes left to play in the half and Agustin Sanchez added the conversion for a 7-0 lead which they took into the half.
A dejected national team Bahamas head coach Minoli Roussos said fitness and technique played major factors in the second half collapse.
“Our technique was not the most sound on defence in the second half. At times we had too many guys coming into a tackle and into the contact, they were able to take advantage and create overlaps with the backs,” he said, “As you get fatigued you start to go higher instead of going as low so things like that we have to be able to adjust on the fly moving forward. There should have been more technical adjustments but at that time the game got away from us.”
With the loss, the Bahamas turns its focus now to a match on the road against the Cayman Islands on May 21. They will then complete the series at home against Bermuda on June 4 in their Rugby Americas North (RAN) Zone Championships/World Cup qualification campaign.
“Tuesday we will be back to work. We play Cayman in two weeks and they play a different type of ball from Mexico, which is a more tight ball, but of course we had that section of the game sealed pretty good, but it was the open side that hurt us against Mexico,” Roussos said, “If we can pull off that Cayman game we look toward Bermuda and then we have to watch the results to see what the other teams in the region so and where we shape up. We just have to pu this game behind us and find a way to move forward.”
Baker scored the conversion to trim the deficit 7-3 but Mexico responded with the decisive run.
Rodrigo Marquez would score the next try for Mexico, followed by another successful conversion from Sanchez who finished 5-6 on the day in kicks, both penalties and conversions.
Mexico piled on with another pair of penalties from Sanchez, and tries from Jose Reyes, Roberto Calderon, and Miguel Carner.
Despite the lopsided scoreboard the Bahamas continued to fight back, running a succession of late penalties around the Mexico 22, however they were unable to bypass a staunch Mexican defence near the try line. The Bahamas was also forced to play the final minutes with 14 players, down a man after one was sent to the penalty box.
Sanchez missed his only kick of the game on the conversion following Carner’s try as time expired.
Mexico head coach Ruben Duque said the team expected a hard fought first half against an improved Bahamian team looking to pull off the upset at home.
“We are pleased with the result. At the beginning, we knew that was going to be the kind of game it was because the Bahamas always plays so tough, especially when they are at home,” he said, “It took us abut a half to play the kind of game we expected but during the second half we focused on getting the ball from the line from the scrum and getting the possibility of gaining more possessions. We were getting too many penalties and we tried to fix these problems and it worked well. After getting the ball from 2-3 rucks, we played the kind of game we want to implement. Maybe in the second half it was the fitness, but we knew in the first half we had to win the contact because they are very strong. But in the second half we played close to the kind of game we want to achieve. We played at fast as we can and thats what we want.”
Duque said while it is early in the process, Mexico is returning to the form which saw them finish as runners up to Trinidad and Tobago in the last RAN Championship final.
“We had just one game before this so we were not sure how we would respond coming in. Now we are back to focus on Bermuda in the next leg and then Cayman in the match following that,” he said, ” Our problem lies in that most of the backs play 7s and they have the qualifier for the Olympics in July so they have to shift back and forth between both versions of the sport. If we win RAN we will play the winners of RAN South which is where we expect to be. It is important in a World Cup Qualifying year so our objective is to make it back to the RAN final where we lost last year. We think if we continue progressing, we will achieve that goal.”
WorldRugby.org currently ranks the Bahamas No. 85 out of 102 countries while Mexico is ranked No.57.
In their last matchup against Mexico, the Bahamas opened the 2014 North American and Caribbean Rugby Association Championships with a 33-18 loss to Mexico.
They Bahamas previously defeated both Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos in 2015 to finish at the top of the North Zone Cup division. This year they are included in the full North Zone Championship.
The Bahamas has not advanced by the opening stage of World Cup qualification in their most recent attempts. In 2012, the Bahamas suffered losses to the Cayman Islands and Bermuda in attempt to qualify for the 2015 World Cup.