By Brian Lowe, Date: 23/7/17
The USA Hawks have picked up from where they left off in 2016 by scoring what turned out to be a comfortable 48-6 win against Jamaica in Game 1 of the 2017 Rugby League Americas Championship series.
Heavy rain and the threat of severe lightning strikes delayed the start of the match in Jacksonville, FL, but it didn’t stop the Hawks from putting on a point-scoring display in front of a parochial home crowd at the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium.
The Hawks led 18-6 at halftime behind a three tries to one performance.
US center Junior Vaivai, who turned out to be one of the stars of the match, opened the scoring within the first couple of minutes with a nicely worked try that he converted himself to put the Hawks up 6-0.
Captain and lock Nick Newlin repeated the dose just a short time later after the US forwards had worked the ball towards the Jamaican line. The try was converted by Vaivai to see the home team skip out to a 12-0 lead within the first ten minutes of play.
The rain kept falling in North Florida, but the game went on and the Reggae Warriors managed to peg one back when Adrian Hall scored out wide down the lefthand side of the field after some good lead up work.
The conversion was successful to bring the scoreline back to 12-6 and it looked like it could be game on.
The match was punctuated by miscues aplenty and ball handling errors galore due to the slippery conditions.
With the USA mounting another attack out wide, a Jamaican defender was injured in the tackle which caused a lengthy delay.
When play finally resumed, a glut of penalties given away by the visitors resulted in fullback Gabe Farley crashing over the line with several defenders hanging on and trying unsuccessfully to hold him up.
The referee awarded the try, again converted by Vaivai, and the Hawks went to the halftime break with an 18-6 cushion.
The second stanza began in much the same way as the first 40 had ended with another USA try.
This time replacement Chris Frazier latched onto the ball and finished off a movement by dotting down. Junior Vaivai was spot on with the points after and the home team now led 24-6.
The Hawks were relentless and kept pouring on the pressure and though try as they might, the Jamaicans could not stem the tide.
By now the rain had let up, but the Americans hadn’t and within minutes of the previous score, winger John St John went in for the USA’s fifth try, again converted by goal-kicking whiz Vaivai, to give the Hawks what then appeared to be an unassailable 30-6 lead with around half an hour left in the game.
Inside the final quarter of the match, Vaivai grabbed his second try of the day, which he converted, to increase the USA’s lead to 36-6.
Not long afterwards, the unstoppable Vaivai notched a hat-trick with his third four-pointer of the evening, which he comfortably converted, that shot the US out to a 42-6 lead with just two minutes remaining in the contest.
Center Taylor Alley then capped off the American scoring avalanche with a try out wide to the right, converted by Vaivai, who was perfect on the evening, to give the Hawks a final 48-6 victory.
The US now has a lengthy break before taking on Canada in Game 3 of the series in Toronto in September, while for Jamaica it’s a case of going home to regroup and prepare to host the Wolverines in Game 2 in August.