SSFL Report: The Clásico is here!

With bragging rights on the line, who will win today’s QRC/CIC clash? 

Now that the dust has settled and we know that the United States will be watching the 2018 World Cup from their television sets, (sorry I just had to) can we adjust our focus back to the Secondary Schools Football League just for a bit?

There may be no final on the cards today, no title hopes on the line, or even the atmosphere that made this derby the talk of the town (many moons ago), but tell that to any pupil who attends either Queen’s Royal College or St Mary’s College today.

Yes folks. You’ve got it right, today is the derby. The very first derby in schools football. The derby that inspired Lord Christo’s famous Calypso in the 1960s. Today “now-come” fans just call it the “Clásico” in fond reference to La Liga’s big-two clash. Today, QRC will host their most hated rivals St Mary’s College, otherwise known as CIC, at the QRC ground in St Clair.

IMG-20171008-WA0004
IN FORM TEAM: St Mary’s are the in-form outfit coming into the derby. Here a group of “Saints” celebrate one of the six they put past Speyside High on Saturday. Photo: courtesy Nicholas Williams

The clash sad to say, has lacked much relevance or “oomph” in the recent years in the SSFL. For one, St Anthony’s College call a lot of the shots in the North Zone, winning the National League Title three times in the last 15 years. And things have gotten worse now that the format of the SSFL has turned into the Premier League since 2014, because now the South Zone teams are creating bedlam in the supposed established order.

But “we not taking dat!” seems to be the call back from the North Zone. Well, kind of. The “Westmoorings Tigers” are four points off top spot in third place, so the NZ flag is held high.

But then the next North Zone team is Fatima College, ten points off the pace. They are followed by CIC 11 points adrift, and Trinity College Moka and QRC sit in the relegation zone, so it’s an awkward argument where bragging rights are concerned.

Yet in spite of this, there will be a crowd at the College ground tomorrow. And it is unlikely to be a fully partisan crowd either, with the men in stripes expected to have not just their rowdy travelling contingent, but female spectators ranging from their sister school St Joseph’s Convent POS (who are there to see either side play to be honest), as well as students from St Francois Girls, Bishop’s Anstey and *place random town school here*.

And let’s not forget the old boys. Who will take time out of their otherwise busy schedule to come in their droves and hurl insults at the enemy camp both on and off the pitch.

So the Clásico does have its pull regardless of a lack of pedigree from both teams. And here’s why.

For one, the history is inescapable. The College’s League as it was known in the 60s, only comprised of the “tong skools” with QRC and CIC exchanging league and national titles for the first four years. Then other schools were built across the country and the inevitable diversity in title winners began.

Despite the fact that both teams play their home matches in the SSFL roughly a kilometre from each other in the same patch of the semi-suburban area uptown Port of Spain called St Clair, the rivalry has always been heated between the two since the outset.

The last meaningful clash between the two teams came in the 2009 North Zone InterCol Final, where QRC won the title 3-0 on penalties after a tense final that finished scoreless. CIC got their revenge a year later in the North Zone InterCol semi-finals winning the shoot-out 5-4 after another 0-0 draw.

In the time since, the fixture hasn’t been as high-stakes as fans have grown used to, but the rivalry is still alive even in the Premier League era. Two years ago, QRC pulled out their best performance all season to thrash the Saints 3-0 at Serpentine road.

The pendulum swung the next way 12 months later, as CIC edged out the Royalians 2-1 at the same ground, with St Mary’s fans cheering at the sideline during injury time.

Arrogant much? Not really. Members of the media have stepped out of their objective shoes to throw words at their rival team, mainly the journalists who attended QRC no less. So fans should expect a lot more banter this afternoon from any direction both on and off the pitch.

On the pitch however, things haven’t gone quite according to plan for either side. The hosts have lost six of their nine matches so far, including the opening match against Speyside High!

IMG-20171005-WA0000
HIGH HOPES: QRC came into the season hoping that they would finally make their mark. If John-Paul Rochford’s frustration against St Augustine last Wednesday is anything to go by, things haven’t been in their favour of late. Photo: courtesy Nicholas Williams.

Hopes were high coming into the season of course. The Royalians snapped up Nigel Grosvenor, the architect of five national titles, and still had their star man of the last two seasons John-Paul Rochford. Things haven’t gone totally to plan as “Grovey” is still searching for the winning formula. And one would feel he will need to find it today.

CIC on the other hand, have the consolation of not being in the relegation zone at the moment. Plus, they had the best possible warm up on the weekend, smashing six past Speyside at Serpentine Road. And what’s worse is that while QRC may have Rochford as their focal point in attack combined with a nippy Darius Dickson, CIC have Michel Poon Angeron and Gabriel Nanton, as well as a better record overall all season.

However, this could be the clash where the Grosvenor alchemy takes effect, with the veteran coach used to these high-pressure situations, and very much familiar with CIC, guiding his former team to many wins in the “Battle of the Saints” derby. QRC may rise to the occasion and squeeze a much-needed win to jumpstart their campaign.

So who will take the derby this afternoon? What we know, is that this will be a mini final in its own right. And the winning team will claim the right to taunt rival fans endlessly until next year. Unless they both meet in the North Zone InterCol in November.

Where does your allegiance lie? Team “A Razza-Tazza” or team “A Boomalack”?

Vital Stats:

National League wins

QRC – 4

St Mary’s College – 2

North Zone InterCol wins

St Mary’s College – 8

QRC – 6

National InterCol wins

St Mary’s College – 2

QRC – 1

Last year’s result: St Mary’s College 2-1 QRC 

*Feature image courtesy Nicholas Williams* 

Advertisements

SSFL Report: Pres take the lead after Shiva slip-up

Title contenders play their own version of musical chairs with league lead

It seems now that it’s Presentation College’s turn to lead the charge after the Shawn Cooper-led team took a two-point lead at the top of the standings after last week’s action.

Fans can’t turn their heads away for too long from this. Two weeks ago Shiva Boys Hindu School seemed to be on their way to a second-successive title. A bit premature stuff in hindsight of course, but after the end of Match Day Five Shiva coach Hayden Ryan was probably kicking his feet back on his desk just for a moment and enjoying the fruits of his camp’s collective labour.

Things change in the SSFL Premier Division though. And at the moment life couldn’t be more unpredictable. Shiva were penalised, then followed up with a 0-0 stalemate against San Juan North Secondary, flopped to a 3-1 defeat away to Trinity College East and then drew 2-2 with co-contenders St Anthony’s College, also away.

IMG-20170925-WA0004
IN THE MUD PIT: Trinity College Moka’s school ground is infamous for the muddy conditions, but that didn’t save the hosts from reigning league champions Shiva Boys Hindu School, who won 2-0 on Saturday September 23, thanks to a Keirron Mason brace. Shiva however have slipped to fourth in the standings in the Boys SSFL Premier League and need a win tomorrow against St Augustine to stay in the title race. Photo: courtesy David Simon

The chink in the armour suddenly turned into a fissure, and the chasing pack more than obliged in taking full advantage. Presentation, Naparima College and St Anthony’s all sharpened their teeth before the action kicked off last Wednesday. The two south rivals were level on 16 points with Shiva, while the “Tigers” were two points behind on 14 points. Presentation however, won last week’s battle.

The “Pres Lions” went to Speyside High on Wednesday, and from the looks of it after the final whistle, fans may be excused for thinking that they went to the sister isle for some much-needed time off. Jaiye Sheppard (twice) and Darnell Hospedales shook the net to wreck any hopes Speyside may have had of moving from the Premier Division cellar.

Then the San Fernando team hosted Queen’s Royal College – last time league-winners in 1997 – at Guaracara Park, where Jordan Riley and Hospedales again scored erasing a Miguel Williams effort for the “Royalians” in the first half. The reigning South Zone InterCol Champions had already taken their two-point lead in the standings at this point, but the win in the capital helped them to stay ahead in the race with six matches to go in the league.

The scoffs can be heard all the way from Lewis Street in the “Naps” camp, as a typically bullish coaching staff led by Angus Eve’s colourful personality, will be smelling the blood in the waters. Naps are two points adrift in second place on 20 points, following a 2-0 weekend win at Signal Hill Secondary, as well as the 3-3 roller coaster at home to St Benedict’s.

IMG-20170917-WA0001
UPSET WIN: Fatima College exacted revenge against Naparima College at Mucurapo Road on Saturday with a 2-1 win in the SSFL. “Naps” beat the hosts twice in the last two seasons at the same ground.  The San Fernando-based team are currently in second place in the table. Photo: courtesy Nicholas Williams

After the three-point boost received from their successful appeal against Shiva Boys, and their recent purple patch on the pitch, Naps have made an impressive turnaround after their inconsistent start in the campaign.

Third in the standings are the Westmoorings Tigers. The team have yet to win the league in its current format, but with their 6-2 win over Trinity College Moka and their 2-2 draw with Shiva, not only are they the league’s top-scorers, they are literally flying the flag for their entire zone!

Che Benny’s lethal left foot struck again from distance. And yes, it was another free kick. That was against Trinity in Moka on Wednesday. Benny hit the target again, and was joined by Haile Beckles, playing in his third straight year for the Tigers, Jaydon Powell and Tyrese Bailey. Talk about exacting revenge for their defeat to Trinity in last year’s  North Zone InterCol final.

Shiva Boys sit in fourth, and take on St Augustine Secondary who are in fifth place with a game in hand. The “Green Machine” last played on Wednesday, and should be feeling fresh in the legs as a result after their 3-1 win against QRC which had moved them level on 16 points with the reigning champions.

The other teams in the East Zone are no pushovers either. San Juan North have yet to lose a match this season, and Trinity College East took an impressive scalp at College Avenue when they became the first team to beat Shiva this season on the field. So it’s no surprise that both San Juan and Trinity trail St Augustine in sixth and seventh place, with San Juan only one point behind St Augustine, and Trinity two points off of San Juan.

Now that I’ve caught my breath, the mid-table is made up of the teams that can’t seem to keep their momentum going long enough to make an impact. So we’re talking about Fyzabad, Carapichaima East, Fatima, Signal Hill, St Benedict’s and St Mary’s.

“Benedict’s” are enjoying life after Leonson Lewis with a resurgence that has seen them climb out of the drop zone, meanwhile CIC braved driving rain and mud to flood Speyside High at St Clair on the weekend. That’s a good omen for the “Saints” one could say, especially considering their next opponents.

QRC have to pick themselves up as they along with Trinity Moka and Speyside are staring relegation in the face. And none of the three will be given any respite tomorrow. The Royalians face their hated rivals in stripes, a must-win clash in every sense, while Trinity host Presentation (yikes!) and Speyside host a resurgent Benedict’s team.

So what should fans expect tomorrow? Possibly more of the same from the top four, including another Shiva slip-up. The “Penal Princes” host the Green Machine in what might be a pivotal match in their title defence. Meanwhile Pres travel to Moka with the bookmakers’ odds in their favour, while Naps also have a favourable home clash against Carapichaima East, who are a feisty unit but not consistent enough to strike fear into the title contenders I’m sure.

The plot continues to thicken.

*Feature image courtesy Nicholas Williams*

Matchday 8 Fixtures:

  • Naparima College v Carapichaima East – 3.40pm, Lewis Street
  • Fatima College v St Anthony’s College – 3.40pm, Mucurapo
  • Fyzabad Secondary v Signal Hill – 3.40pm, Fyzabad
  • Shiva Boys Hindu College v St Augustine Secondary – 3.40pm venue TBD
  • Speyside High v St Benedict’s College – 3.40pm Speyside High
  • Trinity College Moka v Presentation College – 3.40pm Moka
  • QRC v St Mary’s College – 3.40pm QRC ground, St Clair
  • San Juan North Secondary v Trinity College East – 3.40pm Bourg Mulatresse

Current Standings:

 

 

SSFL Report: Shiva still lead… but the gap is closing fast!

Shiva Boys marginally lead four-horse race, while “Tigers” are on the prowl

The “Penal Princes” still lead the charge at the Secondary Schools Football League summit. But just barely.

Just over a week ago, the reigning champions were “sitting pretty” according to local parlance, thanks to a Kierron Mason brace against Trinity College Moka in the mud. Hayden Ryan’s squad had a two-point cushion over Presentation College San Fernando with 15 points, Fyzabad Secondary were third on nine points, while an in-form Fatima College sat in fourth place, also on nine points.

But the SSFL is proving to be as dramatic and unpredictable as the English Premier League, as a number of subplots in the last ten days have changed the landscape of the top end of the table so drastically, that anyone who decided to sign off the action in anticipation of the National Budget would have been wondering if this were the same competition today.

IMG-20170928-WA0007
CLOSE CONTEST: A player from Trinity College Moka (left) pays special attention to his Fatima College opponent during their clash last Wednesday. Fatima beat last year’s North Zone InterCol Champions 1-0 to take full points at home. Photo: Courtesy Nicholas Williams

At the moment three teams; Shiva Boys, Presenation College and Naparima College currently are level on 16 points. Following two points behind are St Anthony’s College who made the most of their rescheduled match with Fyzabad Secondary with a 4-1 win yesterday. And let’s not overlook St Augustine Secondary, who are fifth on 13 points and look determined to upset the established order.

The week’s major talking point however, did not even take place on the pitch. Naparima’s successful protest over Shiva’s Mason played an instrumental part in the turnaround in their fortunes and the Premier Division hierarchy.

The 2015 treble-winners realised that Mason had registered only two days before their high-profile opener at the Ato Boldon Stadium. The according to the official rules, fifth-form repeaters and incoming lower-sixth students have to be registered 72 hours before the season kicks off.

As a result, Shiva, who won that clash with “Naps” 2-1, were deducted three points which were awarded along with three goals to the San Fernando team.

Add to that the fact that along with Naps winning the battle off the pitch, Angus Eve made sure his charges won all the matches on it since, and now the six-time league champions have leapt from ninth place to sandwich themselves in the middle of a deliciously-poised dog fight for top spot with roughly half the league campaign wrapped up.

And as if to add a flourish to Naps’ commanding position, Judah St Louis is making a name for himself this season with that talented right foot of his.

The stocky midfielder has scored three free kicks already this season, including two heat-seekers against fierce rivals “Pres” last Wednesday at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium. Add to that his late jaw-dropping hattrick four days before to pull his team back from the jaws of defeat against St Augustine at Lewis Street, and you have a player who is making a definite case to be this season’s top midfielder.

That is of course unless Che Benny has anything to say about that.

The St Anthony’s College playmaker is St Louis’ opposite in a lot of ways – slighter in frame, mercurial and left-footed – however they both score free kicks for fun. Benny has also shaken the net three times this season from dead balls, a record that will have some of the best keepers this year loathing the thought of facing the Westmoorings “Tigers”.

Ronald Daniel’s men were possibly involved in the match of the week with their 3-3 draw in St Clair against Queen’s Royal College.

Perhaps the Tigers didn’t have the heart to spoil their former mentor Nigel Grosvenor’s party. But deep into injury time it looked as if QRC would beat St Anthony’s for the first time in what seems like forever. No seriously, when was the last time a clash between those two ended in a win for the “Royalians”? That is a definite trivia question. My money is on QRC’s close 2-1 win in the North Zone InterCol Final 14 years ago.

IMG-20170928-WA0003
NORTH ZONE CLASH: Fatima College hosted Trinity College Moka at their ground in Mucurapo. A lone Stephon Marcano goal was the difference between the two teams. Fatima are currently sixth in the table, while Trinity are 12th. Photo: Courtesy Nicholas Williams

Back to the action on the pitch though, and St Anthony’s made the most of home advantage yesterday to send Fyzabad Secondary back to the southland with zero points and a heavily-bruised ego. “Fyzo” now sit in tenth place after the 4-1 defeat. Ten days ago, they were third. With the recent surge in form including their 8-0 win over Speyside last Wednesday, the Westmoorings Tigers are making a case for the North Zone teams, who have proven to be frustratingly inconsistent since the inception of the Premier League.

Presentation College are still in the mix despite missing a golden opportunity to stick it to their eternal rivals last week. After their 2-1 loss to Judah’s sorcery, they went on to edge Fyzabad 3-2 on the weekend and will hope to keep the pressure up tomorrow when they face Speyside High in Tobago.

Meanwhile Shiva followed the ignominy of three dropped points due to penalisation, with a goalless draw in Bourg Mulatresse. However Quinn Rodney, Tyrel “Pappy” Emmanuel, Ronaldo Edwards and (you guessed it) Kierron Mason all netted on Saturday against a plucky Fatima side at their Mucurapo ground to stay ahead on goal difference. Naps were no slouches though, as they made sure and beat St Mary’s College at Lewis Street with goals from Ronaldo McIntosh and Judah St Louis this time from a penalty (easy-peasy!).

So as it stands, the south is still where the football is popping in the SSFL. With Shiva, Pres and Naps in the top three. St Anthony’s are fourth and the “Green Machine” are fifth with 13 points after consecutive home wins against Fyzabad and Speyside High.

At the bottom of the table, the Royalians have entered the drop zone after some poor recent results, and have a confident Green Machine to contend with at home tomorrow. Signal Hill and Speyside have yet to make the most of their home advantage, which will be crucial in the latter stages of the campaign.

Fans can be excused for being slightly on edge tomorrow, because if there is anything to go by from last week’s action, is to put their money on more suprises.

Just over a week ago, Shiva were gaining momentum. Now they’re glancing over their shoulders a little more than they would’ve liked.

The season isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.

*Feature image courtesy Nicholas Williams*

Matchday 8 Fixtures:

  • Carapichaima East v Signal Hill – 3.40pm, Carapichaima
  • QRC v St Augustine Secondary – 3.40pm, QRC
  • Speyside High v Presentation College – 3.40pm, Speyside
  • Fyzabad Secondary v St Mary’s College – 3.40pm, Fyzabad
  • Trinity College Moka v St Anthony’s College – 3.40pm, Moka
  • Naparima College v St Benedict’s College – 3.40pm, Lewis Street
  • Shiva Boys HC v Trinity College East – 3.40pm, Penal
  • San Juan North v Fatima College – 3.40pm, San Juan

Current Standings:

Pos Team P W D L GD Pts
1 Shiva Boys Hindu College 7 5 1 1 13 16
2 Presentation College 7 5 1 1 9 16
3 Naparima College 7 5 1 1 8 16
4 St. Anthony’s College 7 4 2 1 12 14
5 St. Augustine Secondary 7 4 1 2 5 13
6 Fatima College 7 4 0 3 -1 12
7 San Juan North Sec 7 2 5 0 10 11
8 Trinity College East 7 3 1 3 4 10
9 Carapichaima East 7 3 1 3 0 10
10 Fyzabad Secondary 7 3 0 4 -3 9
11 St. Mary’s College 7 2 2 3 -3 8
12 Trinity College Moka 7 2 0 5 -12 6
13 St. Benedict’s College 7 1 2 4 -6 5
14 Queen’s Royal College 7 1 2 4 -8 5
15 Signal Hill Secondary 7 1 1 5 -8 4
16 Speyside High 7 1 0 6 -20 3

 

SSFL Report: Goals like rain!

Shiva Boys cut loose, while Naps become new comeback kings

The week before last’s action gave fans a couple of upsets in the Secondary Schools Football League, but last week order was presumably restored. And how!

There were five goals and more in four games between match days four and five, with San Juan Secondary breaking their winning duck in ridiculous fashion winning 7-0 against Trinity College Moka.

The script definitely remained the same for the boys from Clarke Road, Penal, as Shiva Boys Hindu School trampled Queen’s Royal College 5-1 at home in the midweek, while they had to fight in the Moka mud on Saturday, but still came away with another win – this time 2-0 against last year’s North Zone Champions, Trinity College.

Hayden Ryan’s team are the only one with a 100% record, but things may not go their way this week as they travel to Santa Cruz to take on the reigning National Champions San Juan North Secondary.

“Bourg” need to start winning as they have drawn four of their five matches so far, while winning only one. Shiva are going to need to become the first team to take full points against them this year, and at Bourg Mulatresse to boot. However, it’s unlikely that Shiva fans would be overly concerned at this point.

IMG-20170925-WA0004
IN THE MUD PIT: Trinity College Moka’s school ground is infamous for the muddy conditions, but that didn’t save the hosts from reigning league champions Shiva Boys Hindu School, who won 2-0 on Saturday thanks to a Keirron Mason brace. Shiva currently top the standings in the Boys SSFL Premier League. Photo: courtesy David Simon

The current Premier League leaders could extend their advantage, as Presentation College, who are second with 13 points, host their crosstown rivals Naparima College in a winner-takes-all type affair. “Naps” need to urgently close the gap, while “Pres” can’t afford to let Shiva Boys escape their grasp. The ten-time South Zone InterCol winners may not have a more compelling chance to better their rivals, as “Naps” aren’t having the best of seasons in the league so far.

Angus Eve’s men felt hard done by when St Anthony’s College benefitted from the ejection of Naparima skipper Rondell Payne, scoring the resulting penalty and then drawing level from a Che Benny free kick to hold the 2015 treble winners 2-2 in Westmoorings.

Then on the weekend, the San Fernando-based team exacted revenge against St Augustine Secondary, as they came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Lewis Street – thanks to seasoned campaigner Judah St Louis’ stunning hattrick. The stocky midfielder will need to conjure more of that sorcery at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium in order to give “Naps” not just a much-needed boost, but also bragging rights in the derby against “Pres”.

Fatima College are enjoying life near the summit, after they beat old cross-town rivals QRC in St Clair 2-0 on Saturday and are currently in fourth place. Meanwhile Trinity College East beat Speyside High over in the Sister Isle 3-0, but still sit in sixth place. Grayson’s men will need more consistent results if they are really to make an impact in their comeback to the Premier division this year.

Overall last week, the goals came in torrents. Just like the rain. Shiva’s whipping of QRC in Penal, Naparima’s “Great Escape” at Lewis Street and St Mary’s College’s imitation of that feat with their 3-2 win at Signal Hill in Tobago, provided fans with a tonne of goals despite the rain. And that’s not even including San Juan’s 7-0 beating of Trinity College Moka!

The rain however, seemed to be too much to contain, and St Anthony’s home date with Fyzabad Secondary had to be postponed due to the condition of the pitch in Westmoorings – which is known to be muddy even on a dry day! That leaves both teams with a game in hand, as well as CIC and St Augustine, who have yet to play their rescheduled opening fixture which was canned due to torrential downpours in the capital on Saturday 9 September.

The marquee match ups are already set for tomorrow, with Naps-Pres and San Juan-Shiva on the cards. Other clashes worth seeing will be Trinity East v QRC, St Anthony’s v Speyside High and when St Benedict’s College host Signal Hill. Benedict’s and Signal Hill are both fighting relegation and will need to make the most of their clash tomorrow.

*Feature image courtesy David Simon* 

Match Day Six Fixtures:

  • Presentation College v Naparima College – 3.40pm, Mannie Ramjohn
  • St Benedict’s College v Signal Hill – 3.40pm, Barrackpore
  • Fatima College v Trinity Moka – 3.40pm, Fatima
  • St Mary’s College v Carapichaima East – 3.40pm, St Mary’s
  • Trinity East v QRC – 3.40pm, Trincity
  • St Anthony’s College v Speyside High – 3.40pm, St Anthony’s
  • St Augustine Secondary v Fyzabad Secondary – 3.40pm, St Augustine
  • San Juan North v Shiva Boys HC – 3.40pm, San Juan

The SSFL Report: Shiva Boys continue to soar

Reigning Champs keep winning while contenders stumble

Shiva Boys are attempting to seize control of the Secondary School’s Football League (SSFL) Premier Division despite being only three matches in.

With three wins in their first three games, they currently enjoy a two-point cushion over their southern rivals Presentation College San Fernando, and from the looks of it, Hayden Ryan’s men are going to take some beating this year. At least in the league anyway.

Last Wednesday Judah Garcia, Kierron Mason, Quinn Rodney, Junior Asson and Tyrell Baptiste, all shook the net to shoot down Speyside High across in the sister isle. Then Mason added a brace of penalties according to sources in the seventh and 68th minutes to wrap up Fyzabad Secondary at their Clarke Road base in Penal.

Shiva will return to their home ground tomorrow, and host QRC in what could be another win for the champions if form is anything to go by. However, Nigel Grovesnor’s “Royalians” might have something to say about that.

QRC started their season with an unceremonious defeat 2-0 to Speyside in Tobago. Then John Paul Rochford came into his own to score twice at home to help his team to a 3-1 win against Trinity College Moka in their first home fixture of the season.

IMG-20170917-WA0006
MY BALL: Players from opposing teams do battle during the clash between QRC and San Juan Secondary at the College ground in St Clair on Saturday. The match ended 0-0. Photo: courtesy Roger Seepersad

However consistent form is something that the 1966 InterCol winners will be looking to attain, as they drew 0-0 with San Juan Secondary on Saturday at home. The good news is that their talisman seems to have grown in stature this season, and if his dominant display at Trinity is anything to go by, Shiva’s defence will be busy tomorrow. Darius Dickson is also another attacker to watch in the QRC ranks, as he combined well with Rochford, and his dribbling skills will be an asset to Grosvenor’s direct approach this season.

In the north, Fatima College took a huge scalp as they shot Naparima College on Saturday in Mucurapo, when a late Justin Araujo-Wilson effort set the stands ablaze in the late afternoon.

Fatima’s record against Naparima of late had been abysmal, as last season Isaiah Lee scored a hattrick to dump the three-time InterCol winners 3-1 at the Fatima ground. Rewind to the 2015 season, and Naparima registered a 4-1 win at the same venue.

IMG-20170917-WA0001
UPSET WIN: Fatima College exacted revenge against Naparima College at Mucurapo Road on Saturday with a 2-1 win in the SSFL. “Naps” beat the hosts twice in the last two seasons at the same ground. Photo: courtesy Nicholas Williams

But the third time was not to be the charm at Mucurapo road as Mikheil McCommie opened in the 24th minute for the hosts, only for Renaldo McIntosh to level, setting up the dramatic finale where Araujo-Wilson sealed the upset.

“Pres”, Naparima’s eternal rivals, had no such issues though. The reigning South InterCol Champions beat their neighbours St Benedict’s College 2-0 and then followed up that performance with a 4-1 win at Serpentine Road, with an Ackeel Jacob hattrick doing the job against St Mary’s College.

St Anthony’s College slipped up at home to Carapichaima East last Wednesday, losing 3-1 and then seemed to have a tough time in Tobago, but came out on top against Signal Hill.

Carapichaima, who defeat the “Tigers” in the mid-week failed to register their third win in a row, thanks to Michael Grayson’s men who seem to have finally found their way and won comfortably 3-0 at College Avenue. Star forward Nickel Orr got on the scoresheet again, while Tyrese Williams wrapped up the win. The opener was an own goal.

But the “Blue Hawks” might not be the team to watch from the east – as yet. St Augustine Secondary are also flying after their 4-2 over St Benedict’s College, making it two wins in a row after they beat Signal Hill away 1-0 last Wednesday.

The “Green Machine” have a good opportunity to keep the momentum going if they could win at home against “Caps” on Warren Street.

*Feature Image courtesy Roger Seepersad* 

Match Day Four Fixtures:

  • Trinity College East v Fyzabad Secondary – 3.40pm, Trincity
  • St Mary’s College v St Benedict’s College – 3.40pm, St Mary’s
  • Shiva Boys HC v QRC – 3.40pm, Penal
  • Presentation (San F’do) v Signal Hill – 3.40pm, Guaracara Park
  • Fatima College v Speyside High – 3.40pm, Fatima
  • St Augustine Secondary v Carapichaima East – 3.40pm, St Augustine
  • St Anthony’s College v Naparima College – 3.40pm, St Anthony’s
  • San Juan North v Trinity College Moka – 3.40pm, San Juan

The SSFL Report (Matchday One)

Tigers attack while Shiva Boys best Naps

So the first SSFL weekend kicked off, and the South Zone teams attempted to live up to the acclaim that the teams “past Grand Bazaar” are the best, albeit with mixed results. Well, except for St Benedict’s College, who were hammered at home to St Anthony’s as the “Westmoorings Tigers” bit a chunk out of St Benedict’s College down in deep south.

Defending champs Shiva Boys made it known that there were no cobwebs to dust off after last year’s league-winning campaign, when they saw off Naparima College, the winners of the league in the previous two years, and treble winners in 2015, with a narrow 2-1 win.

Shiva withstood an energetic “Naps” team with a decent display in the middle from Judah Garcia, the younger brother of national winger, Levi. Shiva opened with Junior Asson, and then went on to maintain control before Rushawn Murphy bent a free kick in to level the score for the San Fernando team.

Shiva coach Hayden Ryan called on Tyrel “Pappy” Emmanuel, last season’s MVP, and the “Pappy Show” proved to be a master stroke by the coach, as not only Shiva took back the initiative, they snatched the winner in the 83rd minute through Jude Phillip.

P1030757
ALL HANDS ON DECK: Signal Hill defenders Giovani Sebro left, Jabari George second from left and Jokiah Leacock top, hustle to reorganise in the back as Trinity East’s skipper Romario Williams tries to make an incursion deep into the visitors’ defence on Saturday on College Avenue, Trincity. The match finished 1-1 in the SSFL opener for the two teams.

Fyzabad Secondary made the most of home advantage with a 3-1 win over Trinity College Moka with goals from Sharkeel Louison, Natinni Jones and Maurice Dick, but it that was it for the south brigade.

Presentation College San Fernando failed to beat visitors San Juan North at Guaracara Park, as Renaldo Boyce and Brandon Semper had plans of their own for the “Bourg Mulatresse” boys.

But the real caning came from St Anthony’s College, who responded with a four-goal salvo to beat “Benedict’s” who opened five minutes in at Barrackpore with a goal from Keon Boney. Yezen Rampaul, Haile Beckles, Tyrese Bailey and Jodell Brown, all scored to start off the campaign with a bang for the six-time national champions. It was a victory for the North Zone. They needed it.

Fatima and QRC followed in Trinity’s footsteps. The “Royalians” were blanked in Tobago by Speyside High, who shrugged off any plausible travelling concerns to do the business on the pitch, while Fatima were gate-crashed by Carapichaima East on opening day last Friday.

Up in the East, the lesson was fitness for Michael Grayson’s Trinity College East team, as a bright start in the first half was followed by a jaded forward line in the second half who had to content with a towering and uncompromising Signal Hill defence.

P1030758
COME ON LADS: Trinity East coach Michael Grayson centre, gives instructions to his players during the second half of the Trinity East v Signal Hill clash at College Avenue, Trincity.

Akil Frank’s performance in attack for the Tobagonians almost crashed the party, but Nickel Orr’s equaliser in the first half, and some smart goal keeping by Emmanuel John kept the scores level till the end.

Trinity have their work cut out tomorrow. They face Naps at Lewis Street, and the Sando team won’t be satisfied with anything short of a win. The Tigers host Carapichaima East in what should be an interesting clash, while Shiva travel to Tobago to take on Speyside in what could be the clash of Matchday Two.

Fixtures:

San Juan North v St Mary’s College 3.40pm San Juan

QRC v Trinity College Moka 3.40pm QRC

Speyside High v Shiva Boys HC 3.40pm Speyside

Signal Hill v St Augustine 3.40pm Signal Hill

Fyzabad Secondary v Fatima College 3.40pm Fyzabad

St Anthony’s College v Carapichaima East 3.40pm St Anthony’s

Naparima College v Trinity College East 3.40pm Lewis Street

St Benedict’s College v Presentation College 4pm Mannie Ramjohn Stadium

Elite Pan Ams Day One: Colombians crash the party in Balmain

T&T claimed team sprint silver at the Elite Pan Ams last night

The team sprint was pulse-raising and scintillating; the T&T sprinters even seemed to be searing their way to their country’s first gold medal of the Championships, but it wasn’t enough as Colombia just had that bit extra to keep the hosts at bay.

The trio of Njisane Phillip, Nicholas Paul and Kwesi Browne, however sounded a stern warning all day yesterday however. In the morning session, 44.840 seconds was enough for the trident to record the fastest time at the National Cycling Velodrome. But they were just getting started.

_DSC0203
GUNS BLAZING: Kwesi Browne far left, Njisane Phillip centre and Nicholas Paul stretch every sinew to get the best possible start in the men’s team sprint last night at the Elite Pan American Track Cycling Championships at the National Cycling Centre in Balmain, Couva. T&T finished second in the final but became Caribbean Champions after being the highest Caribbean team on the podium. Photo: courtesy Dennis Allen, Rep868 Photography Twitter: @ttgametime

Then came the first round – which in layman’s terms was actually the semi-final ride – against the Chileans, and T&T blew them out of the water by a 3.603-second gap to head straight into the final. Colombia on the other hand – a team of Fabian Puerta, Santiago Ramirez and Ruber Murillo – clocked the second-fatest time (44.817), beating Cuba by a second and a half to qualify for the final as most expected.

During the long wait in between, T&T opted to change the order of their riders for the final. The team sprint acts as a three-man relay, with each front rider taking leading out the lap. Nicholas Paul was the first lead man in the semi-final, followed by Njisane Phillip and Kwesi Browne. However, Browne pulled out first in the final, and was then followed by Paul and Phillip. However, Colombia stepped up another gear clocking 44.540 seconds while T&T were marginally slower in the final compared to earlier in the day, finishing in 45.083.

Silver however, is not a consolation prize, but a victory in itself as T&T not only grabbed their first medal in the event since 2010, but did so after only training together for weeks. They were crowned Caribbean Champions as a result.

The individual sprints will not be an event that fans would want to miss, as based on sprint performances last night, T&T are not just here to be gracious hosts. The Latinos have been warned.

The endurance races weren’t as kind to the national riders however.

Teniel Campbell and Jessica Costa both had to pull out of a mercurial women’s scratch race, as the Venezuelans, Colombians, as well as the Americans and Canadians teamed up to stretch the race even from the early stages.

In the team pursuit qualifiers, a team of Akiel Campbell, Varun Maharajh, Jovian Gomez and Adam Alexander lowered  the national record set in 2015 by roughly eight seconds, but they were unable to make the time that would see them into the final this evening. The quartet were also very confident coming into the event as well.

“Our current national record is four minutes and 28 seconds,” Maharajh told the media at the meet and greet session at the Velodrome on Monday. “We are trying to shoot for anything below 4:22. We did 4:22 in training and hopefully on race day we going to go out and sub-4:22.” Remarkably the riders – all household names in the endurance cycling circuit – were emulating the team sprint riders in the fact that they only recently started training as a team, which could mean T&T should be in line for more team Pan Am medals in the near future.

_DSC0479
FREIGHT TRAIN: T&T’s endurance riders contested the team pursuit. They were not able to make the final, but they did set a national record in the event. From left to right: Akiel Campbell, Adam Alexander, Varun Maharajh and Jovian Gomez. Photo: courtesy Dennis Allen, Rep868 Photography, Twitter: @ttgameplan

Other notable performances on the night included the Canadians in the team pursuit who blazed their way into today’s final after they successfully lapped Argentina, and will face their North Americans rivals the United States this evening.

Today will feature more speed and endurance races on the track. Keron Bramble and Kwesi Browne were scheduled this morning to compete in the keirin first round, where Bramble finished his heat in second while Browne, currently ninth in the UCI World Ranking finished third.

Both Brown and Bramble are set to race later today in heat two of the 2nd round of the keirin. Akiel Campbell and Kemp Orosco will feature in the final of the men’s scratch race. Meanwhile the Costa sisters (Jessica and Alexi), Alexandra Bovell and Christiane Farah will take the track for the women’s team pursuit first round.

*Feature Image courtesy Dennis Allen, Rep868 Photography Twitter: @ttgametime

21272807_10155797325348586_4082518711028064432_o
Photo: courtesy Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation

 

 

 

 

T&T going for broke on Pan Ams opening day

National record set in team pursuit qualifiers

Things have already rolled off to a flying start on the track for Trinidad and Tobago at the Elite Pan American Track Cycling Championships, as a new national record was set in the team pursuit.

“Our current national record is four minutes and 28 seconds,” Maharajh told the media at the meet and greet session at the Velodrome on Monday. “We are trying to shoot for anything below 4:22. We did 4:22 in training and hopefully on race day we going to go out and sub-4:22.”

And lower it they did. A team of Jovian Gomez, Maharajh, Adam Alexander and Akiel Campbell took their qualifier by storm and lowered the national record by eight seconds when they stopped the clock at four minutes and 20.939 seconds at the National Cycling Velodrome in Balmain, Couva around an hour ago.

21151289_10155792884838586_5229257659491194798_n.jpg

The women have yet to hit the track in the qualifiers for the team pursuit, but the team of Alexi Costa, Jessica Costa, Alexandra Bovell and Christiane Farah will hope to keep the momentum going for team T&T.

The crowd-puller on opening night, however, should definitely be the team sprints where the trio of Nicholas Paul, Kwesi Browne and Njisane Phillip are legitimate favourites to medal in the event; and boy, are they hungry for it!

“I definitely see our chances in medalling for the event,” said two-time Olympian Njisane Phillip. “Nicholas Paul is starting 17.6 [seconds] right now, I think if he can start 17.6 and I can bring us home in like 12.9 and Kwesi Browne bring it home in 13, I definitely think we can ride for the gold here in Trinidad and Tobago.”

The national cycling team has put together a mercurial trio for sure, as Paul is reigning National Champion and ranked 52nd in the UCI World Rankings, Browne is a keirin specialist and 51st, while Phillip is a two-time Olympian, Pan American silver medallist in the match sprint in 2016, and has the national record in the flying 200m to boot, as a testament to his speed.

T&T aren’t alone in the speed factor however, as they will have esteemed company in a stacked field.

Colombia could be the biggest threat to the gold medal, with Fabian Puerta and Santiago Ramirez among their ranks. Other teams include Mexico, Chile,  Venezuela and the United States.

However team T&T will not be pushovers tonight, as the Paul-Browne-Phillip trident all boast a list of individual honours, and are in good place to make the podium this evening. Let’s hope they will be mounting it in first place.

T&T’s Teniel Campbell and Jessica Costa will also contest the women’s scratch race in the night’s final event, with Campbell, undefeated at the recent National Track Cycling Championships a definite favourite to win gold as well.

 

The house that Paul built

T&T cycling fans eager for the senior international debut of the “new kid on the block”

The National Cycling Velodrome is Nicholas Paul territory.

It’s almost a year to the day since he streaked to gold in the match sprint during the Junior Pan American Championships in Balmain, Couva, and now the young sprint cyclist will hope to match his youthful energy and wits against some top-level and experienced counterparts.

P1030506
NATIONAL PRIDE: Nicholas Paul spreads the national flag behind him on the track with a chorus of jubilant fans making a telling backdrop in the stands on the back straight. Paul was in the middle of his celebrations after the captured gold in the junior men’s match sprint at the Junior Pan American Track Cycling Championships at the National Cycling Velodrome last year.

And with his form in the past year and a half, there is good reason for the optimism that has struck local cycling fans.

In 2016, Paul finished third in the sprints at the Easter Grand Prix at the Arima Velodrome, after he took a more experienced Quincy Alexander to the wire in the semi-finals before losing in a photo-finish in the third ride, and then smoking Colombian Diego Andres Peña in two straight rides in the bronze medal ride.

Paul then became National Junior Champion at the same venue, beating Canada-based Trini Je’Land Sydney in two rides in the sprint final, before making the spanking new Velodrome in Couva his own on Independence Day last year.

The then 17-year-old beat Colombian rider Kevin Quintero in two straight rides to become the first local rider to win gold in a major international event at the newly-built venue, which kicked off the Independence Day celebrations proper at the “Orange Bowl”.

“It’s a pleasure, it’s a great feeling to represent my country at home and get a gold medal,” he said after the race last year. “It makes it even more special to win it on Independence Day, to raise the red, white and black flag high.”

Now, with the senior edition – the Elite Pan American Cycling Championships pedalling off today – it seems that the Breakaway Cycling Club sprint cyclist may be on course for more medals, which would cap off a promising first year as a senior rider. And few fans would doubt the likelihood of more heroics this weekend.

Paul recently beat Keron Bramble in two straight rides in the men’s sprint final at the recently concluded National Track Cycling Championships roughly two weeks ago to become National Champion for the first time.

The victory followed two training stints in Europe that started immediately after his Junior Pan Am success last August. A campaign that saw him train in Switzerland, race in France, and climb to 52nd in the world before riding a proper year as a senior. Not bad for a youngster who made the switch from endurance riding to the sprints within the last three years.

“He has gotten a lot more confidence in himself,” explained Anthony Sellier on Monday. “Fresh out of [the] juniors, the first year as a senior is always a year of touch-and-go. You have to deal with racing against full matured men… it’s a big step, but he handled it well and I’m very optimistic.”

Sellier is Paul’s coach locally, and has been the man responsible for T&T’s latest track sensation. But the trainer who has been involved in the sport for a snip over four decades has seen the benefits of his charge training in the Old Continent, as he (Paul) was able to finish third in both the men’s sprint and keirin at the Coupe de France Fenioux.

“There are a lot of areas [where] he has improved, the first of course being his standard of racing,” Sellier said. “He has gotten a lot faster and stronger, but in his technical side, he has gained a lot of skill and a lot of experience in actually doing match-sprinting… his skill level has improved, but he still has a lot to learn – it takes years to build an athlete.”

The Breakaway Cycling Club seems to be producing the goods of late where cycling talent is concerned, as Kollyn St George turned heads as well at the Pan Am Juniors two years ago in Aguascalientes Mexico returning home with two gold medals.

Off the track and onto the trails the club also boasts mountain bike champions in Chris Govia and Ryan Chin (2016). St George has reportedly withdrawn from the Elite National Championships after qualifying as National Sprint Champion, but Paul is still on track to represent not just the red, white and black, but the club that is turning into a hotbed of sprinting talent.

P1030508
BREAKAWAY AND PROUD: Nicholas Paul left, poses with his coach Anthony Sellier after his historic win at the Pan American Juniors last year.

“I’ve been coaching for 43 years,” Sellier explained. “I’ve trained riders as far back as Gene (Samuel). Over the years, I’ve learned quite a bit and I’ve been able to get some guys to go quite a bit fast, and we have a couple more coming out again.”

With all the expectation one has to wonder how has Paul been handling the pressure. The youngster from Gasparillo has become a household name in the track circuit – he is even a hot topic at local bike shops – and with his rise to fame in the past 18 months, has the extra attention started to take its toll?

 “If you talk to him now, and if you spoke to him a year ago, you’ll get the same thing… there is no arrogance in him, he is just who he is; Nicholas Paul,” Sellier said. “He’s still very young. He’s 18 going on 19 and I am trying to preserve that as much as possible.”

The Breakaway sprinter will take to the track this evening with his senior teammates Kwesi Browne and two-time Olympian Njisane Phillip in the men’s team sprint; an event that many in the know believe that T&T have a decent shot to take gold.

Paul is the new sprint king

Campbells reign supreme with omnium clean sweep

Paul Win[61]
THE NEW BOY WONDER: Nicholas Paul pumps his fist in delite after winning the men’s match sprint title. His first individual national title as a senior sprint cyclist. The young Breakaway CC rider won the title after beating Keron Bramble of Rigtech Sonics in two straight rides at the National Cycling Velodrome in Balmain Couva yesterday evening. Photo: courtesy Richard Lyder
It probably wasn’t the finale fans were salivating for all along. But in the end, Nicholas Paul triumphed in the elite men’s match sprint and all was well in Balmain, Couva yesterday evening at the National Track Cycling Championships.

The Breakaway sprint cyclist spent most of 2017 training in Europe, and it seemed as if the experience is definitely paying off as he saw off Keron Bramble, his more experienced counterpart in two straight rides in the final of the men’s match sprint.

“Bramble Boy” who rides with Rigtech Sonics fell victim to Paul’s top-end speed in the same manner as a number of cyclists have over the last 12 months. Bramble was unable to overtake on the back straight when Paul led out on the first ride, and then was overtaken himself on the final curve leading to the finish after he came out aggressively in the second ride.

Paul seemed to be fulfilling his destiny early if you believe most cycling enthusiasts, as he only turned a senior this season. But the promise of the night’s sprinting events was anti-climactic, as some of the big names pulled out for differing reasons.

Before a cyclist had even clipped into his pedals, the hype of the sprint was electric to say the least. Quincy Alexander (Team DPS) is an experienced competitor and was the winner of the event at last year’s Easter Grand Prix. Then of course there was Arima Wheelers’ Kwesi Browne, a keirin specialist and last year’s national champion in the sprint. Bramble of course is always a contender and Njisane Phillip is a two-time Olympian and 2015 Pan American silver medallist in the sprint.

Add the wild card that is the young and upcoming Nicholas Paul, and you have the race sprint fans had long been waiting for.

However, Alexander pulled out of the event after suffering a nasty spill in the flying 200m in the morning session, while Phillip opted out of the semi-final sprint presumably because he had already made the qualifying time (10.300 seconds) for the national squad hoping to do damage at the Elite Pan Ams set to be held at the same venue in a fortnight.

In the end Bramble had a bye to the final, while Paul and Browne faced off in the semi-final, and the youngster dished out the same treatment to his more experienced compatriot as he did to Bramble to qualify for the final.

In the end, fans were elated regardless and the odd “Team Nicholas Paul” tee-shirt was seen on a fan who was dancing a jig in the stands when he came around the back straight pumping his fist in celebration after his first senior individual national title. “Njisane, is you we wanted!” a fan shouted after the race, aimed at the multiple national champion down in the cycling pit – cueing peals of laughter. But the matchup wasn’t to be. At least not yet, anyway.

Breakaway CC did do the sprint double however, with Kollyn St George making easy work of her clubmate Dominique Lovell to win in two straight rides to win the national title the first time at senior level. St George who jointly holds the Junior Pan Am team sprint record with Keianna Lester, has also been training in Europe this year, and seems to be in ideal shape going into the Elite Pan Ams.

The real crowd-pullers on the night came from a familiar, albeit unexpected place, as the Campbell siblings dominated in the endurance events. Teniel made easy work of the women’s points race to win the omnium overall – she was able to capture all the sprint primes in the process. Her latest win came off the back of her points race and keirin double on Friday night.

Her brother on the other hand was not only satisfied with winning, but making a show of it. Akiel won the men’s elimination race with strategic riding; making sure to stretch the race with three laps to go which made the final two laps a big ask for his club mate Varun Maharajh who finished third, and caused Adam Alexander to tank out in the final lap.

Campbell (A) wasn’t finished yet, as there was still the matter of the omnium points race. He came into the race leading with 116 points, and kept a steady pace while Maharajh and Gevan Samuel made it a two-horse race 30 laps into the race.

With 23 laps to go, Maharajh managed to lap the field and gain 20 points, putting him in a fantastic position in the standings, but things took a dramatic turn as the race’s finale approached. Campbell made his move on the second-to-last sprint prime, taking the five points and then continued his assault in an attempt to lap the field – which he managed with just two more laps on the electronic board. Maharajh took the last prime, but it wasn’t enough as Campbell amassed 164 points to win the omnium, as well as the hearts of the onlooking fans who were mostly out of their seats.

Maharajh finished second overall with 157 points, while Adam Alexander was third with 138 points.

Action continues on the track today, with the men’s standing 250m which pedalled off at midday, and the evening session, which will feature the individual pursuit and the time trial.