Possums Help USA South Claim NACRA Rugby 15s Championship

(Port of Spain, Trinidad) On Saturday the USA Rugby South Panthers defeated the Trinidad and Tobago national team to claim the 2013 North American Rugby Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) Championship.  Three Knoxville Rugby Club (The Possums) players were instrumental in the victory.

After finishing 7th in the competition last year, USA South had to earn their way to the finals through pool play and a knock out round.  Along the way they defeated Mexico, Jamaica, The Bahamas, The Cayman Islands, and Bermuda to get to the championship match.

With the scored tied 18-18 early in the second half and the Trinidad team starting to gain momentum the Panthers made several substitutions in hopes of sparking the American side.  The three Possums were the first players off the bench as Wayne Chermely took over at blind side flanker, Matt Abernathy came on as at lock, and Chad Haynes stepped in at loose head prop.  The fresh legs provided by the Possums proved to be a major factor as the Americans took control of scrums and lineouts. USA South scored the final try with only a few minutes to play secure a 26-18 victory and the NACRA Trophy.

Team captain Derek Wolfe, who played every match and was awarded Man of the Series, had this to say about the Knoxville players: “The Knoxville guys added a huge advantage to the team. Chermely was critical in the lineout and a mad man in loose play. Abernathy is an all-around player and can tackle anything that moves. Chad was an amazing scrummager who helped us literally walk over multiple international level packs. All 3 guys have the ability to be game changers and that is exactly what they did. Off the field you couldn’t find better guys to represent their club and the USA.”

According to the IRB Match Commissioner, USA South became the first provincial team to win an IRB title as well as the first American 15s team to win an IRB sanctioned event.

Chermely, Abernathy and Haynes all got their rugby starts in high school as part of the Tennessee Rugby Association (TRA).  Chermely (Bearden) and Haynes (West) played in the Smoky Mountain Athletic Conference (SMAC) while Abernathy (Brentwood) played in the Middle Tennessee Conference.  Chermely and Abernathy went on to play at the University of Tennessee.

The Knoxville Rugby Football Club was founded in 1980 and participates in USA Rugby’s Division II.  The club finished the 2013 season with a 6-2 record and were runners up in the Mid-South Division.  KRFC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that aims to promote amateur athletics in the United States.  Rugby will make its return to the Olympics in 2016.

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