The BVI's Ronan Kuczaj carries the ball
Melvin Knight, a product of the BVI youth rugby program produced a game-winning drive that resulted in the winning try for the British Virgin Islands as they defeated the St. Thomas privateers 7-6 on St. Thomas turf last Saturday, January 12.
Playing at home, the privateers seized the early lead, but Knight´s try (worth five points), in only his second game of senior 15-a-side rugby stole the show. He brought the score to 6-5. Fly half, Dustyn Molver, held his nerve to slot the conversion kick (worth 2 points) and finally put the BVI ahead, 7-6.
When the final whistle blew the BVI celebrated quietly as they knew they had been very fortunate to steal a victory over a tough and committed St. Thomas side.
From the start of play the St. Thomas squad tackled with ferocity and a very physical game ensued. The BVI failed to capitalise on early territory and soon found themselves on the back foot due to a succession of penalties for infringements. Despite dominating St. Thomas in both the scrums and the line outs, the tough St. Thomas defence ensured that BVI kept turning the ball over.
Despite the offensive surge from St. Thomas the BVI defence stood firm and forced St. Thomas to settle for three points from a kick a penalty instead of pursuing a try. St. Thomas fetched a 3-0 lead into half-time.
For the BVI, Matt Holmes and Chris Kennedy ran and tackled hard, and Ian James worked tirelessly in the contact area, but unfortunately the BVI backline was under enormous pressure and could never build any continuity to the teams play.
In the second half, St. Thomas continued to apply pressure and the BVI continued to give away possessions through handling errors and soft penalties. With 15 minutes left St. Thomas took another successful penalty to take the score to 6-0 and it looked as if the BVI were a spent force. During the last five minutes of the game the BVI tried desperately to get the ball past their 22 metre line, but numerous drives were snuffed by St. Thomas. With the final whistle approaching, the BVI finally picked up momentum as Matt Holmes embarked on a curving 30 metre run handing off several opposing players before spinning a delightful pass to Molver who shipped the ball down the back line to full back Victor Franklyn.
Franklyn stepped and when reaching midfield popped a simple pass to 17-year old speedster Knight. Knight left his tackler in the dust and beat several players before cutting back inside to wrong foot the last defender to finish a scintillating try under the posts.
St. Thomas was looking to extract revenge against the BVI following their upsetting lost in the 7-a-side form of the game. St. Thomas had beaten the BVI Barbarians and lost to the BVI Arawaks during the BVI invitational Sevens final in November.
The BVI played without several key players, but the team was boosted by the debuts of Matt Holmes and Chris Kennedy in the back row. In the back line youngsters Rory Thornton and Knight added some youthful vigour and pace to compliment the elder statesmen of Andrew Simmonds and Franklyn.
The BVI's Rory Thornton tries to avoid a tackle
Speaking after the game Coach Solo hinted that the hoped this BVI team had learnt a few valuable lessons ahead of their NACRA Championship visit to St. Lucia in two weeks.
If the BVI can beat St. Lucia they will be rewarded with a home fixture against Curacao at the end of February after Curacao beat St Vincent 37-24 in the other Round 1 qualifier.
The BVI team will host both St. Thomas and the Princeton University team on February 16 for a tournament.
BVI Rugby Football Union (BVIRFU) thanked sponsors Digicel, SHRM, Maples, KrYS Global, RTW - Heineken, Captain Mulligans, Department of Youth Affairs & Sports and the BVI Olympic Committee. BVIRFU also thanked the BVI Recreation Trust and the Premier´s Office for all its assistance with the national team training and promotion of youth rugby.
Starters: Ronan Kuczaj; Roan Thornton; Adrian Bello-Oneil; Federico Zicari; Simon Knight; Chris Kennedy; Ian James; Matt Holmes; Andrew Simmonds; Dustyn Molver; Rory Thornton; Tom Chapman; Donovan Staple; Jerome Springette; Victor Franklyn.
Subs: Des Wynne; Burt Woodley; Andre Adams; Adebola Haffner; Melvin Knight; Eduard Vasquez Jnr.