Jamaica made history with their first-ever win over USA, 16-10, bringing them the 2018 Americas Championship and automatic qualification for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England, the eleventh nation to book their place.
The Reggae Warriors’ heroic, stoic, goal line defence – particularly in a scoreless second half – saw them become the inaugural Caribbean nation to make a World Cup, sparking wild celebrations as the final whistle went at the Hodges Stadium, University of North Florida, Jacksonville.
“We handled them better than they did us,” said euphoric Jamaica head coach Romeo Monteith, mobbed by his players. “We capitalised on their poor discipline, we had a plan and it worked. At half time we said we needed to maintain our focus, we saw off what they threw at us and held our nerve.
“This is massive for the Jamaican nation,” Monteith added. “To reach a World Cup is something extra special, it feels like there is one love.”
He sprang a surprise by playing Leeds Rhinos full back Ashton Golding at hooker from the start and although Golding suffered a neck injury during the second half, bravely playing on, his running and distribution out of dummy half was key.
Magnificently supported by the tireless plunges of Lamont Bryan, backed up by Ross Peltier, midfield guile of Joel Farrell and threat of Ben Jones-Bishop from the back, the visitors were 16 points up after half an hour and look set for victory. But two tries in four minutes at the end of the opening period brought the home crowd to their feet.
The second half became a monumental slug-fest ending only when Ryan Burrows was held out by the swarming Jamaican cover defence, on a power play in the 79th minute. With seven minutes remaining, Coleman had a field goal attempt blocked, Burroughs knocked on and the ball was shipped to Ogden who was superbly bundled into touch by Jamil Robinson, who made a huge impact for the Hawks off the bench.
In the closing stages, Jamaica were caught accidently offside from a kick in their own quarter, Kristian Freed knocking on, Bryan doing likewise as fatigue set in to give Jamaica a final set to defend. Offerdahl and Faraimo powered forward and, on the last, Donehue tried to get Burrows over out wide but the green wall stood firm.
Distraught USA head coach, Sean Rutgerson commented: “Our discipline was awful and let us down badly. “We got back in the game by half time when we stopped giving penalties away. They ran down the clock at scrums and drop outs and made it difficult to build any pressure.
“We’ve made it very hard for ourselves now.”
The USA now enter a repecharge world group in late 2019 in an effort to pick up one of the remaining qualifying places in 2021.
USA 10 : Cory Makelim, Ryan Burroughs, Brandon Anderson, Bureta Faraimo, David Washington, Danny Howard, Connor Donehue, Mark Offerdahl, Kristian Freed, Andrew Kneisly, Joe Eichner, Jerome Veve, Haveatama Luani. Substitutes: Jamil Robinson, Nick Newlin, Kyle Denham, Chris Wiggins. Tries: Donehue (35), Burroughs (38). Goal: Faraimo 1/2
JAMAICA 16 – Ashton Golding, Aaron Jones-Bishop, Ben Jones-Bishop, Joseph Brown, Alex Brown, James Woodburn-Hall, Jy-Mel Coleman, Jonathan Magrin, Lamont Bryan, Omari Caro, Mo Agoro, Joel Farrell, Keenen Tomlinson. Substitutes: Renaldo Wade, Ross Peltier, Jacob Ogden Khamisi McKain. Tries: Farrell (21), Ogden (29). Goals: Coleman 4/6
Referee: Ben Thaler (England). Penalty count: 7-12. GLDO: 2-1
Half time: 10-16
Man of the Match: USA – Corey Makelim. Man of the Match JAMAICA – Ashton Golding.