By Brian Lowe, Date: 26/7/17
The USA coaching staff and players aren’t getting too carried away with their first-up win of the season, but are pleased nonetheless with how things played out in their opening match of the Americas Championship series against Jamaica.
On the back of a very short training camp, the Hawks scored a convincing 48-6 victory over the Reggae Warriors in Jacksonville, FL, to get their title defense off to the best possible start.
“Great result for the boys over the weekend”, said USA captain Nick Newlin.
“We continued our winning ways after having a 3-0 International season in 2016 and it was extremely satisfying seeing it done with seven newcomers in the team.
They transitioned into how we want to play and conduct ourselves seamlessly from training on Friday right through till the last whistle on Saturday.”
It was their fourth straight win dating back to the corresponding game in July 2016 in Philadelphia, the first Americas Championship series match.
In that time, the Americans have beaten both Jamaica and Canada twice.
North Florida turned on some pretty awful conditions this past weekend with heavy rain and the threat of lightning strikes causing a delay to kickoff, but once things got underway it was virtually one-way traffic.
“We battled the conditions the first 15-20 minutes offensively and put a little pressure on ourselves as we had so much ball in their half, but I think we were happy to come away with 18 points at halftime, continued Newlin.
Our defense was superb as we pressured them when they were backed up, forced errors and really played well as a team and picked each other up always having three and four in a tackle and forcing Jamaica to play our game.
Great way to start the 2017 campaign and I know the guys are excited to get up to Toronto in September and have a good battle with Canada.”
The flipside is the Jamaicans were a little rusty, although they were enthusiastic and showed glimpses of being able to match it with the Hawks.
They weren’t at full strength as a fractured jaw to regular halfback Renaldo Wade forced him out and rookie replacement Kareem Harris had little time to gel with the team, while veteran halves Marvin Thompson and Ryan Grant were unavailable for the game.
“We expected the USA would try to dominate around the ruck with their big forwards before going to (center) Vaivai to finish”, said Jamaica coach Romeo Monteith.
“Our task was to challenge them in the middle and to improve on ball retention as we were horrible last year in completing our sets in both games, thereby being fatigued early and thus on the back foot and ineffective in both games.”
Monteith goes on to say the on-field competitiveness that Jamaica is focused on overcoming is not their only battle and that the game s infrastructure in the Caribbean is another major hurdle they face.
“Like all nations in the Americas, we struggle for corporate recognition and support, he said.
Despite beating Ireland and drawing with Wales last year (both top 10 countries) we have not attracted additional sponsors.
We’ve actually lost sponsors due to a year in Track and Field and Football.
I believe we are only the second team on the island ranked in the top 20 of its respective sport, but it’s a long way to getting the support needed to push further ahead.”
Jamaica s next obstacle is Canada, who they host next month in the second game of the Americas Championship series.