Costa Rica rugby teams took on Panama in last Saturday’s Copa Caribe “Friendlies” tournament for men and women.
Whilst most of Costa Rica may have been unaware of what was happening on a hot and sunny Saturday morning over at the Liceo Franco Costarricense in Tres Rios (San Jose’s French school), there was a small but lively atmosphere created by people watching rugby.
Rugby might be a somewhat niche sport here in Costa Rica but those that are involved are not short of enthusiasm as was evident during the ‘Copa Caribe.’ Panama was the visiting team, and they brought both male and female competitors to take on their hosts, the Costa Rica national team and 3 regional teams from the Central Valley.
Friends, family and other rugby aficionados turned out to watch and cheer on the players who showed no lack of commitment, running, tough tackling and skill. For a sport with such a small following, the ability on display was impressive.
The day started early with a high energy ‘rugby 7s’ tournament played by the women. Only having 7 in each team on a full size pitch and playing multiple games in succession tends to mean high scores and exciting end-to-end stuff; we weren’t disappointed. It was indeed fast, but it was tough as well. Hard hits and big tackles were a plenty, but there was none of the play-acting and feigning injury so common in soccer — this is not a sport for those that want a break.
- Wák 61-0 San Jose
- Rugby Cartago 5-36 Panama
- San Jose 0-51 Costa Rica
- Panama 0-31 Wák
- Costa Rica 46-0 Rugby Cartago
- Rugby Cartago 20-0 San Jose
- Wák 14-21 Costa Rica
- Panama 52-5 San Jose
- Rugby Cartago 0-47 Wák
- Costa Rica 7-17 Panama
- Costa Rica 72-25 Panama
Costa Rica vs. Panama, 15s
To finish things off was the highly anticipated men’s 15-a-side international showdown. The first 10 minutes set the tone for what was to be a bruising and electric-paced game. Costa Rica took an early lead and looked dangerous but the first quarter of the game was fractured with handling errors and mistakes, largely forced by ferocious and determined defending by both teams.
Panama came back strong with some pressure and territory but couldn’t find a breakthrough and Costa Rica was able to clear their lines. With momentum in the balance, a moment of individual skill swung things heavily in CR’s favor. Short of options and inside his own half, the CR winger saw a gap behind the defense to kick into, chasing the ball down himself before powering over the line for a try with two defenders in tow. [quote_box_right]Learn more about how Rugby is played and it’s presence in Costa Rica: More Than Bodily Strength.[/quote_box_right]
From then on, Costa Rica dominated the rest of the first period and remained camped out inside Panama’s half enjoying both possession and territory. Panama defended well but couldn’t resist wave-upon-wave of attack with the tough CR forwards working hard to recycle the ball and wear-down the opposition. Inevitably, this led to gaps forming, and when the ball was moved out along the line to the rapid backs who with speed and skill, the team didn’t hesitate to exploit and score. CR was able to employ this tactic multiple times to good effect.
Hope did arrive for Panama towards the end of the first half when a yellow card was thrown, resulting in a 10-minute penalty for Costa Rica’s full back. Panama maintained the pressure and whilst having the opportunity to kick for 3 points, they needed points so kept ball in hand and eventually got what they wanted with a try scored by the same man. The first half of 40 minutes ended 41-5 to Costa Rica.
Panama came out for the second half with a point to prove and face to save and they were much improved. The hot sun and rising fatigue levels meant tiring defenders and the game became very open and end-to-end. Attacks regularly led to tries for both teams. Good work by the forwards in the scrums and rucks meant the ball was slickly moved down the line to the backs who were able to use their pace to find gaps.
This pattern continued through the second period and blows were traded and whilst Costa Rica outscored Panama again, it was more even and Panama will be proud of their fight and ability to respond to the very one-sided first half.
Costa Rica always looked the stronger team with strength in depth as they were able to bring on effective replacements to keep the tempo high. The game along with the rest of the day’s action was played in a very good spirit by all teams and provided an impressive advert for a sport little known and even lesser played in Costa Rica.