Jamaica’s Rugby league side created history by reaching their first World Cup with victory over the USA, with the help of three players with local connections.
Batley Bulldogs centre Keenan Tomlinson featured in the game at loose forward, while Alex Brown, who had a spell at Dewsbury Rams last season but has been playing rugby union for Cleckheaton in recent weeks, played on the wing.
Dewsbury Celtic amateur Danny Thomas was not involved in the USA game but had played a part in the Reggae Warriors squad and featured in their 38-8 semi-final win over Canada.
Jamaica made history with their first-ever win over USA, bringing them the 2018 Americas Championship and automatic qualification for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England, the 11th nation to book their place.
The Reggae Warriors’ heroic goal line defence - particularly in a scoreless second half - saw them become the first Caribbean nation to make a World Cup, sparking wild celebrations as the final whistle went at the Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville.
Two penalties by Jy-mel Coleman, who had a spell with Dewsbury in 2013, put Jamaica ahead.
Batley’s Tomlinson looked to have set up a try for Aaron Jones-Bishop after stealing the ball but he was denied by a tackle from Cory Makelim.
James Woodburn-Hall, called into the side to replace Dewsbury Celtic’s Thomas, set up the opening try when he slipped the ball in to Batley Bulldogs Sheffield bound second rower Joel Farrell who went over with Coleman adding the extras.
Farrell’s pass out wide was gathered by Jacob Ogden and he grounded in the corner.
Coleman converted from the touch line, but that would prove the end of the Jamaican scoring.
USA fought back with two tries in four minutes at the end of the first half.
Connor Donehue twisted over through two tackles, Bureta Faraimo converting
Ryan Burroughs then crossed on the back of Haveatama Luani’s kick but Faraimo’s conversion attempt hit a post.
There was no further scoring in the second half but Jamiaca had to survive a 79th minute raid when their swarming defence prevented Ryan Burrows from scoring a dramatic last ditch try and the Reggae Warriors celebratic a historic win, which sees them qualify for the next Word Cup.
It has been a whirlwind few months for Tomlinson, who enjoyed his debut season at Batley and was rewarded with a new deal which keeps him at the club for 2019.
A delighted Tomlinson tweeted: “So proud. Can’t believe we did it still speechless. And to be able to do it with my two brothers just makes it that little sweeter. World Cup here we come.”
Former Dewsbury Rams head coach Glenn Morrison was also part of the Jamaica coaching team.
Morrison tweeted: “Three years ago Romeo Monteith asked myself and Jermaine Coleman to come on board and work with the Jamaican RL team. Our number one goal was to reach the World Cup. Well we achieved it.
“History is made. Proud of everyone involved over the three years. #1dream1team.”