– This is the best Sports team in the Caribbean – MVP McKenzie
Tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) Guyana’s Kevin McKenzie, who thrilled the local fans with his mesmerising run down the left touchline to score the most important five points in the game in sudden death overtime, proclaimed that the new five-time champions is the best team in the Caribbean.
In what many agreed was the most breathtaking match in the tournament, the Guyanese, who faced Jamaica for the second straight final, rebounded from a 12-5 deficit at halftime to beat Jamaica 22-17 and capture their fifth straight NACRA title to strengthen their regional superiority yesterday, at the National Stadium..
Having trailed the Jamaicans 12-0 early in the match, the Guyanese managed to pull back a try just on the stroke of halftime when UK-based Dominic Lespierre received a pass from Captain Claudius Butts broke down the left touchline and ended over the try-line.
The ensuing conversion was missed by Ryan Gonsalves, while Lespierre, who got injured whilst scoring the try, was unable to take any further part in the game. The resumption saw the introduction of the inspirational McKenzie and he immediately made an impact, as he lit up the Stadium with a sparkling run down centrefield, before turning wide, out-sprinting his markers to end over the backline as Guyana drew within 2, down 10-12, before Gonsalves made good on his conversion to level the scores.
That result instantly energised the partisan supporters and the regional champs were back in business.
Jamaica on the other hand continued to pass the ball well to their flanks, but seemed to lack structure and that allowed the Guyanese to seize the initiative as McKenzie was once again able to take full advantage of the tiring defence of the opposition.
He gave Guyana the ascendancy when he fended two fierce tackles, before tearing up the sideline to score another try deep in the final period as Guyana led 17-12.
However, Jamaica through some errant ball handling and passive tackling managed to level the scores after a fumble just outside the Guyana backline was kicked over it and a Jamaican player diving full length caressed the ball before any Guyanese defender could have done so.
Shortly after, the whistle sounded to signal the end of regulation.
That necessitated sudden death overtime with five minutes allotted for each half, but the irrepressible McKenzie was again to the rescue, hammering down the left side, waving off two tackles to send the Guyana team and their fans in frenzy as he finished over the tryline with the Jamaican defenders absent and the team in anguish.
Once again, the Guyana team playing before their home fans showed the fortitude of champions and deservedly retained their title.
Earlier, the Jamaicans stunned the crowd by going ahead through some impressive passing sequence which culminated with their opening try.
The conversion was good.
They stretched their advantage further in the same period with another telling passing display and good athleticism, out-sprinting the locals defence to score. The conversion was missed.
Coming off the bench was a difficult decision-McKenzie
– Mom, Dad, fiancée, family presence made it special
Tournament MVP Kevin McKenzie, who came off the bench to engineer Guyana’s come from behind victory in the final against Jamaica told Kaieteur Sport that the decision not to start in the final was a tough one.
McKenzie, who scored three tries in the final including the important one in the first period of sudden death overtime, said that it was a team decision since they felt that the Jamaicans would not last the full game playing at top speed and they would tire thus giving Guyana the advantage of having fresh legs on the pitch.
“We knew that they could not last the duration of the match without getting tired and our strategy was to use me in the second period to run at them,” McKenzie told this newspaper.
He disclosed that ever since the start of the tournaments, the team’s motto was to have faith, trust each other and believe that despite the adversities, they could remain champions.
He added that to be successful sometimes you have to be aggressive and that was what they demonstrated yesterday against the Jamaicans.
Touching on the future of the team, McKenzie, who stated emphatically that the team is the best sports team in the region, revealed that they’ve been able to achieve all that they set out to do so far which was to make the Commonwealth Games, Pan Am Games and the World Sevens Series.
“We’ve consistently shown that we are the best team in the Caribbean, but we need the Government, Private Sector and the public at large to recognise and support our efforts,” McKenzie felt.
Meanwhile, when asked to describe how special the win was, McKenzie said that the mere presence of his mother, father, fiancée (Christine Vidler), sisters, and brother was special enough and he could not ask for more.
“You wouldn’t believe this; this is the first time in my rugby career that my mother has come to see me play and for me that’s special.”
McKenzie emerged from a family of sportsmen and women with his brother Kelvin, a national footballer and sister Neisha Allen, a national sprinter, all born to mom Yelena Allen.
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