By Rawle Welch
The Guyana national rugby team that created history by winning both the NACRA
15’s and 7’s titles in one calendar year returned home yesterday to a rather low-key welcome that had only Union officials in attendance.
The national ruggers commonly referred to as the ‘Green Machine’ was greeted by the media, but noticeably absent were members of the Sport Ministry and National Sports Commission whose absence stirred responses of disappointment by the history making champions.
Guyana has now won the NACRA Sevens Championship for the seventh time and the win gives the team automatic qualification to the 2015 Pan Am Games scheduled to be staged in Toronto, Canada, while a return to the IRB Hong Kong Sevens was also gained by the capture of the NACRA title.
The Guyanese came from behind to beat host Mexico 33-28 in the final with former sprinter Patrick King, who was playing in his first tournament at this level scoring four tries in a dream debut to ignite a dramatic fightback after trailing 7-21 at the half.
Speaking with the media at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, the NACRA debutant said it was a great experience for him, but reminded that it would not have been possible without the support of his teammates.
“It was a great feeling I was not nervous until the final, but when I saw Mexico take a 21-0 lead I was just praying to get on the field because Kevin (McKenzie) told me to believe in myself and I went out
there and brought it home for my team,” King told the media.
Captain Ryan Gonsalves told the media that Mexico brought the game to them and even though they knew that the encounter would not be an easy one they never gave up, adding that many other teams would have thrown in the towel, but praised his players for showing the fight and tenacity to rebound and take the title for the seventh time.
Gonsalves, who is also the Captain of the 15’s team, pointed to the deepness of the bench as one of the primary reasons for the team’s ability to erase even the most significant lead.
He said the year is indeed a historic one for the sport in Guyana, informing that it has never occurred before where this country held both titles at the same time.
Gonsalves when asked about the possibility of the team becoming the first one from these shores to represent this nation in a team sport said that Rio 2016 is a great possibility.
Head Coach/player Theodore Henry in his remarks reminded the media that the victory marks the second time that Guyana’s rugby was able to qualify for the Pan Am Games, while it also allows them to get back on the international scene.
“Missing last year was kind of a new experience for us, but the guys were determined to win. This year was really special for us we came from behind on both occasions (NACRA 7’s and 15’s) and won and it just shows how tough we are mentally and physically so I think that we need the support from all Guyanese as we prepare for much bigger competitions,” Henry stated.
Henry felt that Guyana could not have won without the kind of performance that King produced and credited him for his confidence and natural ability that helped them to get over the line.
He, however, expressed disappointment about the absence of officials from the Government and other agencies related to sport, asking what more must the team do to generate the respect that is afforded many other disciplines whose achievements pale in comparison with theirs.
The team was promised unmitigated support by the Minister of Finance Ashni Singh shortly after presenting the Union with a cheque on behalf of the Government shortly before they departed for Mexico.
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