Kevin McKenzie drives Guyana to fifth Caribbean 7s title

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KEVIN McKenzie single-handedly wrecked Jamaica’s hope of landing their first NACRA Caribbean Sevens Rugby title while his heroics gave Guyana their fifth consecutive championship when the ‘Jaguars’ roared past the ‘Reggae Ruggers’ 22-17 in extra time.
It was a festive atmosphere at the Guyana National Stadium yesterday for the final of the North American and Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) Sevens Men’s tournament which was being played in Guyana for the first time.
Guyana booked their place in the final with wins over Bahamas (10-5) and Trinidad and Tobago (7-0) in the quarter-finals then got the better of Mexico 19-5 in the semis.
For Jamaica, they thrashed the Cayman Islands 47-5 and then eclipsed Mexico 17-7 in their quarter-final matches and later downed the Bahamas 17-7 in the semi-finals to book a clash once again with Guyana.
But it was déjà vu for the Jamaicans as they would once again stand and watch Guyana celebrate another historic win, just like they did in the final of the CAC Sevens Rugby tournament where the Guyanese won gold by defeating them 31-7.
However, only this time the Jamaicans’ eyes were filled with tears although they held a 12-5 lead at halftime.
Andrew Fong opened the scoring for Jamaica who came out playing physical and took the game to Guyana and Donald Walters scored the conversion. Andrew Hilton took the Jamaica’s lead to 12-0 with his try due to a defensive error but the conversion was missed.
Dominic Lespierre superb run in the tournament came to an aborted end after he was taken out of the game by a late tackle from a Jamaican player whilst scoring the try to give Guyana their first try of the game.
But then it was time to bring the hero and the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) McKenzie in the game, who sat and watched the first half on the bench; a decision he said after the game “was hard to make but it paid off in the end.”
McKenzie ruffled and bullied his way to his first of three tries in the game which saw the conversion made by specialist kicker Ryan Gonsalves and tied the game at 12.
A few minutes later, McKenzie again was too much for the Jamaican defence and used his size and speed to his fullest advantage to register his second try to take Guyana to a 17-12 lead but Gonsalves could not have converted.
Shouts of “Hold on Guyana” came from the highly vociferous crowd at the national stadium but Everton Richards scored a try for the Jamaicans under the post to level the scores at 17 but the conversion was unsuccessful.
Time soon expired and it meant that the game would go into extra time and both teams, knowing that it would take only a try to win the game, came out with blood in their eyes.
For Jamaica, the blood and sweat soon turned into tears as McKenzie pulled off what he described as his biggest moments in his rugby career, when he faked a pass to the speedy Dane Parks powering down the left flank of the field and pushed off the Jamaica defender to score the winning try.
Pandemonium broke out at the stadium as other members of the Guyana team piled on the player, all in a jovial mood.
The Guyanese danced and sang as the Jamaicans looked on in dismay knowing that they did not only lose the NACRA final but, they also missed out on a chance of playing at next year’s Pan American championships in Mexico.
In the third place game, Mexico defeated the Bahamas 17-7 and last year’s runners-up Trinidad and Tobago were fifth.