Harvard RFC avoided finishing the 2016 domestic rugby season without a major title in the conventional (15-a-side) game when they claimed the Premier Division Big Four championship on Saturday. They defeated Trinidad Northern 17-10 in the final at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
It was fair reward for the Woodbrook-based unit which had been prominent in the other competitions without taking any silverware. Harvard finished fourth in the Premier Division league table and upset the league champions Carib RFC in the Big Four semi-finals, before suffering a 30-13 defeat at the hands of Carib in the Marcus Minshall Cup (knockout) final.
In Saturday’s final, played on the Savannah 1 pitch, fortunes swayed from side to side in a very competitive opening half. Northern were also trophy-less going into the contest, with the result that both sides played with great intensity from the kick-off; and the pressure told, as the game was littered with ball-handling errors.
Harvard’s defence was the first to be breached -- Trazine Mc Lean scoring an early try for a 5-0 Northern lead. Harvard responded through their backs, with team captain Claudius Butts drawing them level with a try and Ryan Hinckson edging them ahead 7-5 by booting home what would be the game’s only successful conversion.
However, with sustained pressure from their forwards, Northern regained the lead when Dane Parks landed their second try, from a move that ended near the touchline. But for the second time, Northern could not convert; and with ten minutes left in the half, Harvard’s John Hill weaved his way through their defence and over the try line for a 12-10 lead, one which the men in green took into the interval.
On the resumption, both teams tightened up on their defences and attempted tries from both units were denied by great tackling and stubborn resistance in the malls and rucks near the goal lines.
The game was eventually decided when the Harvard backs – Butts, Quashie and Hinckson – made an overlapping surge and Northern missed a critical tackle, allowing Butts to coast through for the try and a 17–10 Harvard lead.
To their credit, Northern kept up the pressure and almost levelled the score with seconds on the clock; but a knock-on, five metres short of the goal line, blew the opportunity and Harvard just made it home.
Elsewhere, Police took the Women’s Knockout title on Sunday in convincing fashion, scoring a 57-17 rout of Royalians.
The 2016 rugby season will end this coming Sunday when the Heineken Harvard Seven-a-Side tournament will be run off on the St Mary’s College Ground in St Clair. Kick-off time is 10 a.m.