The USA Hawks rugby league team won its first qualifying match against Jamaica 20-14 for placement in the 2017 World Cup on Dec. 4 at Hodges Stadium. The city of Jacksonville reprised its role as a major hub for rugby in the US by hosting two Rugby League World Cup qualifiers at UNF’s Hodges Stadium.
Both teams started slow until the US scored back to back tries, with one missed conversion, to go up 10-0. A late try by Jamaica made the score 10-6 at the half.
The tide turned in favor of the USA when left center Danny Howard scored an early try to start the second half. A successful conversion made it a 16-6 game.
Another try by the US put the nail in the coffin. Jamaica was able to score one more try in the closing minutes, but the USA won the game 20-14. US rugby league head coach Brian McDermott praised both teams after the hard-fought match.
“It was always going to be a tough game, a really fast game,” McDermott said. “We did very well to hang on against a physically dominant Jamaica team.”
Some of the players on the US roster have personal ties to Jacksonville. Jacksonville Axemen star John Prunell and UNF Deadbird legend Taylor ‘Icebox’ Alley both treated the match like a homecoming game.
“It’s unreal,” Alley said. “Not only playing for the USA, but getting to come back and do it on my alumni grounds where I played my first rugby game ever is pretty unreal.”
The next qualifying game for the USA is on Dec. 12 against Canada at Hodges Stadium.
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