It was a first for Rugby League in the Americas region, a first for Canada and the US to be working together and it was the first Liberty Cup – Battle of the Americas, that saw the CanAm Grizzlies defeat the Latin Heat 60-4 at St Marys Leagues Stadium, Sydney, Australia.

Julian Clarkstone – courtesy of USARL

Liberty Cup - Battle of the AmericasThe Grizzlies ended up running away with the game towards the end but it did not truly reflect the toughness of the clash, which had several players feeling sore after 80 minutes.

The Latin Heat looked at their most dangerous in the first 20 minutes, regularly getting close to the tryline, but the Grizzlies withstood pressure and then applied their own through a try to Sam Carson that was nicely set up by Prop, Caleb Thomson.

Considering the limited preparation time, the Grizzlies looked slick with the ball, which led to the team’s second try to Roderigus Ceasar who played for Central Florida before playing in Australia in 2016.

Kevin Reed Jr. then made his intentions known with a barnstorming run, breaking the line and running around the fullback to score underneath the posts, giving the Grizzlies an 18-0 lead.

The Latin Heat continued to push and scored a try towards the end of the first half, with Alvaro Alarcon crashing over on the Heat’s left wing, providing momentum to the Heat heading into the second half.

Despite this, the Grizzlies looked far more threatening in the second half, led around by their spine of Ryan Burroughs (fullback), David Marando (hooker), Jay Florimo (halfback) and Danny Howard (captain and five-eighth).

The second half saw Roderigus Ceasar score two more tries to reach his hat trick and was joined at this milestone by his center partner at the Central Florida Warriors and Narooma Devils, Sterling Wynn, who scored three of his own tries.

The game continued to break open, seeing another try to Sam Carson, who was joined by Steve Bouchard and Danny Howard who also scored.

Liberty Cup 2016 trophyEven with the big difference on the scoreboard, both teams were able to join together in celebration when Danny Howard raised the Liberty Cup trophy for the first time, which was presented to him by US Consul General, Valerie Fowler.

The Liberty Cup will hopefully be an event that can springboard many of the players onto greater things, as well as lift the profile of the sport in both North and South America.

It was also a perfect opportunity to open the eyes of many fans as to the talent that both continents possess, which saw them treated to some great tries and the Rugby League World Cup Trophy was also on display for fans to pose with for photos.

After the match, coach Aaron Zimmerle had the tough job of deciding the team’s player of the match, which he awarded to David Marando for his grit in the middle of the field and his ability to direct the team around.

Zimmerle’s simple game plan for the team panned out nicely and he is now looking forward to future prospects for the CanAm Grizzlies.

“The opportunity to coach the CanAm Grizzlies in the inaugural Liberty Cup has  only further reaffirmed to me the potential that Rugby League has to grow and prosper in North America.”

“The coachable nature of both the Canadians and Americans, along with their pure athleticism and courage under contact allows them to quickly adapt to our modern game.”

“With only three sessions together in preparation it was particularly pleasing to see the intensity and cohesion they were able to play with in both attack and defence.”

“It was a simple game plan of playing flat and fast at the ruck and holding great width and punching hard on the edges.”

“Our spine was all class as hooker David Marando and five eighth Danny Howard (who both played in the last World Cup) combined seamlessly with Jay Florimo and Ryan Burroughs at the back, allowing the team to achieve the fluency of a seasoned side.”

Liberty Cup - CanAm Grizzles“Our left side were the recipients of the momentum created by our rampaging props Caleb Thomson, Curtis Goddard, Douglas Faaiu Atiifale and Steve Bouchard, with Rocket Rod and Sterling showing electric pace in scoring hat tricks. Not to be outdone, both back rowers Sam Carson and Steve Howard ripped through countless tackles.”

“A highlight not to be missed was NRL Rookie, Kevin Reed Jr, coming off his wing and trucking through the middle of the ruck on a rampaging run that finished 80 meters later under the posts.”

“As an event both the North Americans and South Americans should be commended, 18 – 4 at halftime was an indicator of physically tough encounter, that had as many highlights as an NRL game.”

“To the St Marys Rugby League club, Penrith Panthers, the game organisers and in particular Julian Clarkstone from the Grizzlies, I applaud your initiative in establishing the Liberty Cup and what it means in growing the International game of Rugby League.” Aaron Zimmerle said.

In support of what Aaron Zimmerle said, the Liberty Cup would not have been possible without the support of the Penrith Panthers and St Marys Rugby League club, and it is such a great sign to see that they are assisting the growth of the International Game, which will hopefully be further amplified with the return of the Liberty Cup in 2017.

CANAM GRIZZLIES 60 (Rodrigus Caesar 3, Sterling Wynn 3, Sam Carson 2, Danny Howard, Steve Bouchard, Kevin Reed tries; Jay Florimo 4, David Marando 2, Roderigus Caesar, Danny Howard goals) defeated GYG LATIN HEAT 4 (Alvaro Alarcon try) at St Marys Stadium, New South Wales, Australia.

CANAM GRIZZLIES: Ryan Burroughs, Roderigus Ceasar, Sterling Wynn, Terrance Williams, Kevin Reed Jr., Jay Florimo, Danny Howard ©, Caleb Thomson, David Marando, Curtis Goddard, Steve Howard, Sam Carson, Douglas Faaiu Atiifale. Interchange: Chris Waters, Ricky Jones, Steve Bouchard, Brett King, Tim Howard. Coach: Aaron Zimmerle.

GYG LATIN HEAT: James Horvat ©, Sebastian Delapaz, Miguel Alarcon, Matty Booth, Alvaro Alarcon, Brad Millar, Trent Millar, Eduardo Wegener, Daniel Navarro, Juan Carlos Carrion, Nick Doberer, Jaden Laing, Andres Rossini. Interchange: Nicholas Cama, Jonathan Espinoza, Jesse Graham, Steve Clark, Jon Munoz, Daniel Aguirre Acevedo, Joshua Munoz. Coach: Aaron Raper.