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Monday, July 9, 2018

South Panthers Win Back-to-Back RAN Titles

By Pete Redmond

The USA Rugby South Panthers defended their 2017 RAN (Rugby Americas North) title with a decisive 42-14 victory over the visiting Cayman Islands national team in Atlanta on a stiflingly hot Saturday. With the victory at Atlanta Old White’s expansive pitch, the Panthers clinched the first ever back-to-back titles in RAN history.

The Panthers got on the scoreboard early. The backs, led by scrumhalf Zach Miller, kept the Caymans scrambling with quick line breaks. They quickly got the ball within scoring distance, with hooker Alex Maughan pounding it over for the first try. Flyhalf Lucas Baistrocchi missed the conversion, but was flawless the rest of the match, hitting his next seven conversions.

The Caymans settled down, but soon spent the rest of the half on defense. The Panthers forced three penalties, all of the converted successfully by Baistrocchi. Despite their elusive running, the Caymans had difficulty getting anything started on offense, at least in part because the Panthers’ line speed and aggressive rucking disrupted their game plan. The Panthers were particularly effective on lineouts, with rangy lock Ben Foley and MLR standout Matt Hughston disrupting 55 % of the Caymans’ attempts.

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The Panthers soon managed to break through the Caymans’ line again. The Panthers forwards poached and stole the ball from the Caymans, and quickly counterattacked. A pack of forwards thundered down the touch line, with lock Waymon Cassell getting the try.

Just before half, the Caymans had a chance to get on the scoreboard with a penalty kick, but it went wide. As a result, the halftime score was 21-0 favoring USA Rugby South.

The second half started no differently, with a series of long line breaks by the Panthers. The combination of Zach Miller and Lucas Baistrocchi, at scrumhalf and flyhalf, were able to spin the ball out wide with excellent tackling by the Caymans defense at the fringes keeping the Panthers out of the try zone. However, the cagey veteran captain, eight-man Hein Erasmus, and the South forwards continued their dominance pushing over for another try. Soon after, a gang of South forwards poached another ball at the breakdown, with Panthers prop Amro Guda running it in for another try.

The Caymans refused to quit, though. The Panthers picked up consecutive yellow cards in the second half and were forced to scramble on defense for most of the rest of the half. After a series of elusive runs, the Cayman Islands got on the scoreboard with a try and a conversion in the 64th minute, only the be answered shortly after by elusive South wing David Coleman’s blazing try-scoring run down the touch line soon after.

The Caymans responded with another late try, but the match was beyond reach. The wet conditions and the USA Rugby South’s defense, fueled notably second-half lock sub Calvin Storey, kept the Caymans from threatening the lead.

Despite the Caymans’ aggressive defense, the Panthers ruled the day with their fast-break offense. Particularly during the first half, the South was able to put together some inventive, fast-paced phases that proved too much for the spirited Islanders, winning 42-14 and making USA Rugby South the first team to ever win Rugby Americas North two years in a row.

USA South

3' Try Alex Maughan Conversion Missed
15' Penalty Lucas Baistrocchi
18' Penalty Lucas Baistrocchi
24' Penalty Lucas Baistrocchi
34' Try Waymon Cassell Conversion Lucas Baistrocchi
42' Try Hein Erasmus Conversion Lucas Baistrocchi
54' Try Amro Guda Conversion Lucas Baistrocchi
68' Try David Coleman Conversion Lucas Baistrocchi

42

Cayman Islands

64' Try #9 Conversion 9
79' Try #15 Conversion 9

14

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