Leon Pantor, captain of the T&T Under-19 rugby squad which ended third at the North American Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) Championship in Orlando, Florida, is one of nine local players being targeted for a partial athletic scholarship by Louisiana State University. This was stated by coach of the young T&T rugby squad and Leon’s father, Willet Wayne Panton, in a recent interview on the team’s return from the eight-team event.
The local squad, under second year coach, Pantor, who had a fifth-placed finish on debut last year, started off this year’s competition with a 47–5 thrashing of Cayman Islands in their quarterfinal on Sunday, July 12, at the Omni Resort, while USA South ‘A’ trounced Bermuda 24–0. A day earlier, Mexico crushed USA South ‘B’ 29–8, while Barbados punished Turks & Caicos, 43–7.
However, in the semifinals on Tuesday, July 15, T&T found itself in a 15–0 hole before scoring 13 points in a narrow two-points loss, while USA South A crushed Barbados 32–7. In the playoff for third spot, T&T trampled Barbados 34–11 while Mexico retained its crown with a comprehensive 24–0 blow-out of USA South ‘A’.
Commenting on the team’s performance, Pantor said he was satisfied with the improvement. “Based on the exposure and experience of the team, I feel very proud about the effort. We started with a very easy win against Cayman Islands, and in the semifinals after falling behind to champions, we were able to get ourselves back into the match, but we just came up short,” he said.
Pantor said he was very optimistic about the team’s chances next year. Pantor said: “What was impressive is that most of the players, close to 15 of them, will be available to play in this same age-group tournament next year. So it goes to show that our six-months of developmental work and preparations made a big impact and our future now looks bright.”
Pantor was also happy to disclose that based on the performances, a number of players were offered partial scholarships in the USA, which they are now looking at. “There were a number of scouts from US schools and clubs at the event and they were very impressed by the talent of the T&T team. And it was through their displays they were able to attract the interest of the Louisiana State University Division One team scouts and coaches,” Pantor said.
Other players who were offered partial scholarships include Shaquille Dyke, Jean-Pierre Williams, Sherad Ferreira, Odell Bacchus, Wasim Ollivierre, Melek Fraser, Emmanuel Joseph and Matheus Matthews. “They were offered partial scholarships which means the school will not be covering the full cost of their tuition, so we are now exploring our options to determine whether or not the players will be taking up the offer,” ended Pantor.
In the other playoff matches, USA South ‘B’ copped seventh spot via its 17–0 blanking of Bermuda, while Cayman Islands took home the plate title after battling past Turks & Caicos 29–26. Earlier on in the Plate semifinals, Cayman Islands stopped USA South ‘’ 20–8 and Turks & Caicos topped Bermuda, 17–11.