By Robert Burgin, Date: 5/2/14
A MAIDEN international victory against Japan and three further spirited performances have marked the GYG Latin Heat’s participation in Saturday’s Cabramatta Nines an overwhelming success.
Despite four player withdrawals on the week of the tournament and an arduous road trip to Sydney for half the squad, the GYG Heat squad bonded and displayed admirable pride and commitment.
While a 22-8 win over a valiant Japan was the icing on the cake for months of preparation – sparking joyous celebrations – there were encouraging signs in all games.
A first-up 18-6 loss to Portugal came after the Heat led 6-0 early thanks to a try from captain Jye Sommers (Peru) and sustained dominant possession.
Sommers’ try was the Heat’s first in international competition after a humbling 114-0 loss to the Philippines in a full 80-minute, 17-a-side Test a fortnight earlier.
The Portuguese were the biggest team the Latino boys would face through the Cabramatta pool rounds and there was great courage shown by all in meeting them head-on in the ruck.
The lessons learnt from enduring up to four training sessions per week were then shown an hour later, when the GYG Heat skipped ahead of the Philippines 10-0 in a rugged encounter.
Unfortunately the Filipinos had too much game experience to match and were fortunate, but nonetheless deserving, in pipping the Latinos 12-10 on the final hooter.
Despite the heartbreaking result, the Latin Heat showed heightened awareness of key areas like advantage line running, compressed defence and supporting the man with the ball.
That led to a quiet confidence about the looming match-up with Japan, a side at a similar development phase as the Heat.
All expectations were exceeded from the kick-off however, as the Latin Americans ran in three successive tries for a 14-0 halftime lead.
Skipper Sommers was again among the try scorers, breaking through from 40m out, belying his status as the oldest member of the squad.
While Japan nabbed two tries in the second half, the excitement did not abate, with some of the Heat’s rookies coming to the fore.
Winger Fernando Villegas (Colombia) scored his first try at any level of competition, after running on to a long, floating pass from fellow league newcomer and Colombian, prop Sebastian Maya Jimenez.
Then in the shades of fulltime, teenager Carlos Rojas (Chile) danced his way across down the blindside, having been a late replacement called into the team.
The final 22-8 score brought the vocal Latino supporters to their feet and was just reward for the pioneering players and their continued eagerness.
Unexpectedly, the victory pitted the Latin Heat in a quarter final against a relative heavyweight of international rugby league – Greece; a team with players such as 200-game first grade veteran Michael Korkidas.
Though the Greeks consistently held the upper hand in a heated battle, the Heat were in no way disgraced by a final 20-0 margin.
Indeed, some crunching tackles from backrower Josh Gadea-Hellyer (Uruguay), ambush kicking by half Marco Pereira (El Salvador) and fearsome attack by Sebastian Maya Jimenez frustrated the more fancied opposition at times.
The Heat also played the final match of the day without skipper Sommers and star forward Jaden Laing (Chile), allowing bigger minutes for some of the team’s developing players.
As always, the team’s participation in the event could not have been possible without the support of sponsors Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, Crop del Monte Coffee Specialists, Rumba Latina Entertainment, Link Australia Education and Service Centres, Samba Times Investments, and Gringo TV & Magazine.
The Heat now look to the future, including the possibility of a mid-year match between Queensland Latinos and New South Wales-based Latinos, as well as prospective end-of-season internationals against Thailand and Portugal.
The focus in coming weeks will be upon transferring the team’s efforts into recognition in the Latin American media, exploring grants, sponsorships and other funding options, and developing stronger ties with the large USA-based Latino population.
LATIN HEAT SQUAD for Cabramatta Nines.
1.Kristian FREED (Guest – USA, Lives Bunya QLD)
2.Fernando VILLEGAS (Colombia, Lives Annerley QLD)
3.Charmoon TUMUPU (Guest – Cook Islands, Lives Bankstown NSW)
4.Kristofer VIEIRA (Uruguay, Lives Plumpton NSW)
5.Diego SANTIAGO (Colombia, Lives Kelvin Grove QLD)
6.Jye SOMMERS (Peru, Lives Corrimal NSW)
7.Marco PEREIRA (El Salvador, Lives Tarragindi QLD)
8.Sebastian MAYA JIMENEZ (Colombia, Lives Spring Hill QLD)
9.Eric ORELLANA (El Salvador, Lives Parklea NSW)
10.Jaden LAING (Chile, Lives Leumeah NSW)
11.Josh GADEA-HELLYER (Uruguay, Lives Liverpool NSW)
12.Juan David ESPINAL (Colombia, Lives Wishart QLD)
13.Michael FALCON (Uruguay, Lives Bracken Ridge QLD)
14.Carlos ROJAS (Chile, Lives Mt Druitt NSW)
15.Tangi RUATOE (Guest – Cook Islands, Lives Ambarvale NSW)
PORTUGAL 18 d LATIN HEAT 6 (Jye Sommers try; Kristian Freed goal).
PHILIPPINES 12 d LATIN HEAT 10 (Kristian Freed, Charmoon Tumupu tries; Kristian Freed goal)
LATIN HEAT 22 (Jye Sommers, Carlos Rojas, Fernando Villegas, Kristian Freed, Tangi Ruatoe tries; Kristian Freed goal) d JAPAN 8.
Plate Quarter Final:
GREECE 20 d LATIN HEAT 0.