A record crowd for a rugby match in Mexico saw the home team comfortably dispatch Jamaica 68-14 in Mexico City to open their NACRA Caribbean Championship account with a victory in an entertaining match that also doubled as the opening World Cup 2015 qualification match.
The home side kept their hopes alive of progressing to face the winners of the South America CONSUR region in the next phase of qualifying with an excellent display of pace, power and execution, running in nine tries in front of over 2000 vociferous fans who were excited to see the Webb Ellis Cup up close and personal.
In a frenetic opening quarter, fullback Pascal Nadaud ghosted under the posts for a converted try to get the home side off to the perfect start before Miguel Carner touched down in the corner, converted and then added a penalty to give Mexico a superb 17-0 lead.
A penalty try was awarded to Mexico after the Jamaica scrum buckled under their own posts. Carner added the extras, but Jamaica hit straight back with a superb converted try by Ronaldo Wade as the visitors made the most of an opportunity from broken play.
Mexico captain Juan Pablo Andrade extended Mexico's lead with a superb solo try from a scrum which Carner converted from the touchline. Christian Henning then added a fifth try and Samuel Gythu Nyaga a sixth as the hosts went into the break with a comfortable 41-7 lead.
Jamaica clawed back the deficit at the start of the second half when, buoyed by increased territory and possession, they powered over the Mexico line through impressive loosehead prop Romaine Campbell. The extras were added by Grant.
The revival was to be short-lived as replacement Roberto Calderon crashed over to extend Mexico's lead. Miguel then added a penalty before converting Fernando Herrejon's try to extend the lead to 56-14.
Mexico were playing some stunning attacking Rugby and Henning then added a further try, converted by Carner, before Simon Pierre scored in the corner from a scrum to round-off a well deserved 68-14 victory.
The NACRA Championship is being played between March and June and features eight teams: Mexico; Jamaica; Cayman Islands; Barbados; St Vincent; Trinidad & Tobago; Bahamas and Guyana. Mexico are off to the perfect start, but this is just the beginning of the journey for a very competitive Caribbean zone.
Mexico captain Andrade expressed his delight to have got the campaign off to a winning start: "It was hard work out there today, but I am very happy for the team and for Mexico Rugby. It was a quick, physical match and we played some good Rugby. We can now look forward to playing Cayman Islands in the next match."
Jamaica captain Carlyle Burger said: "Full respect to Mexico, they deserved to beat us, but we go back to Jamaica with our heads held high and the dream is definitely not over."
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "Although there can be just one winner, I would like to congratulate both teams on playing their full part in an exceptional start to the Rugby World Cup 2015 qualification process. The road to England is well and truly underway."
England Rugby 2015 Ambassador Lawrence Dallaglio, who gave a stirring team talk to the Mexicans on the eve of the match and took the ceremonial kick-off, said: "I have been impressed by the reach, enthusiasm and professionalism of Rugby in this part of the world. The quality of Rugby was good, the support superb and this occasion really reinforces the values that draw so many people to our sport."
Qualifying attention now turns to the Philippines, Asia on April 14-20 when Sri Lanka, Singapore, Philippines and Chinese Taipei will battle it out for the honours of being crowned Asian 5 Nations Division 1 champions to progress to the HSBC Asian 5 Nations 2013 and the next phase of Asian qualifying.
Over the next three years 80 nations from all continents will compete over 184 matches to claim one of the eight qualification places available to Rugby World Cup 2015, joining the 12 automatic qualifiers from New Zealand 2011.
World Cup 2015 may still be over three and a half years away, but the long road to England 2015 is well and truly underway and if the opening match is anything to go by, there promises to be plenty of drama and excitement along the way.
Tries: Nadaud, Henning 2, Nyaga, Carner, Andrade, Herrejon, Pierre, Calderon, Penalty try
Cons: Carner 6
Pens: Carner 2
Tries: Wade, Campbell
Cons: Grant 2
Mexico: 15 Pascal Nadaud, 14 Alejandro Chavez, 13 Christian Henning, 12 Pablo Pagano, 11 Samuel Gythu Nyaga, 10 Miguel Carner, 9 Juan Pablo Andrade (captain), 8 Simon Pierre, 7 Fernando Herrejon, 6 Luis Rosete, 5 Erik Castillo, 4 Gonzalo Taddei, 3 Max Douek, 2 Carlos Prieto, 1 Patrick Jouan.
Replacements: 16 Juan Manuel Ceja Matamoros, 17 Luis Hernandez Cruz, 18 Roberto Calderon, 19 Pablo Pinedo, 20 Bruno Rodriguez, 21 Carlos Susarrey, 22 Gerardo Gil Hernandez.
Jamaica:15 Joseph Shae, 14 Ryan Grant, 13 Donald Walters, 12 Tyronie Rowe, 11 Ronaldo Wade, 10 Nicholas Pusey, 9 Andrew Hylton, 8 Carlyle Burger (captain), 7 Chrisdan Grayson, 6 Omar Jones, 5 Edgar Herbine, 4 Kemar Catwell, 3 Sandino Hastings, 2 Robert Johnson, 1 Romaine Campbell.
Replacements: 16 Deryon Balfoure, 17 Rahmone Goldbourne, 18 Allessandro Allen, 19 Hubert Thomas, 20 Mohenjo Thompson, 21 Kenneth Walker, 22 Claude Yen.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)