*File photo
*File photo

Bermuda went down 51-9 to Mexico in Dos Rios, Huixquilucan, as they succumbed to a ruthless home performance and the crippling effects of playing at altitude.

After a tight first half, in which a Bermuda side containing nine new caps fought bravely and were only 13-9 down, Mexico ran away with the game in the second period.

Despite the scoreline and tough conditions 9,000 feet above sea level that saw four Bermuda players treated for altitude sickness and one, Tashon Desilva, hospitalised, coach Roedolf Van Der Westhuizen was gracious in defeat.

He said: “They were by far the better side today and deserved to win. I am disappointed that we did not take the opportunities we had in their first half. 

“I am proud of the lads defensive effort in these challenging conditions — the scoreline does not reflect how hard they worked. We had nine new caps today as well so my players will learn from this experience. 

“I take my hat off to the Mexican #13 he took control of the game in the second half and we had no answer for him. A world-class performance by the lad.”

Down 3-0 after a Miguel Carter penalty, Bermuda settled down and began to dominate in the scums. Winning a scrum against the head, Bermuda caught Mexico flat-footed and a series of well-worked back moves saw them drive deep into the Mexican half. 

Mexico cynically killed a promising attack with hands in the ruck and Bermuda stand-off Tommy Edwards knocked over the penalty to even things up at 3-3. 

Bermuda continued to exert pressure and a nice up-and-under saw speedster Neville Zuille catch his opposite man in possession deep in his 22. The ball was expertly stolen at the breakdown by Paul Canfield and Bermuda looked to score a try off the turnover, only for a nasty-looking high tackle on Edwards to extinguish the threat.

With Edwards getting medical treatment, Bermuda center Richard Cumbers knocked over the kick to give Bermuda a 6-3 lead 25 minutes into the game. 

However, a simple handling error off the restart gifted Mexico an attacking scrum. They spun the ball wide and only a desperate try-saving tackle by the covering Paul Dobinson stopped the flow. 

Mexico won the ensuing lineout and a crash ball in the center resulted in a harsh penalty for not releasing. Carter stepped up and slotted the easy lick to bring Mexico even again at 6-6. 

Bermuda then worked through some good phases and drove into the Mexican half and were rewarded with a long-range penalty by Cumbers to retake the lead 9-6. 

But the visitors then began feeling the effects of the altitude and the high-pace game of the Mexicans.

Some good running and support play by the Mexican backs put the Bermuda defence in disarray and a 40-metre attack in injury time saw their winger touch down in the corner for a 13-9 half-time lead.

Bermuda faced an uphill battle in the second half with a fit, young Mexican side playing well.

Mexico turned over a scrum on their five-metre line and launched an audacious attack from under the shadow of their own posts.

Mexican seven, virtuoso Christian Henning, had been kept in check in the first half but he exploded in the second with an amazing performance. 

Henning cleverly dummied the ball and then skipped inside his opposite man to break through. A deft offload to the supporting winger saw Mexico deliver a stunning body blow to Bermuda in the first minute of the half. Winger Pablo Pagano carried the back-tracking Corey Boyce over in the corner to score a 95-metre try. Carter added further salt to the wounds by knocking over the difficult side-line conversion. 

Man-of-the-match Henning was not done by a long shot. Mexico immediately countered from the restart and put on a clinic in controlled possession rugby. 

Bermuda soon found themselves 27-9 down and they had not touched the ball in the second half. The altitude and constant tackling were taking its toll on the older Bermuda squad and where they once looked competitive, increasingly they looked desperate and lost control of the game.

Tom Edwards was harshly shown a yellow card for allegedly not rolling away from a tackle and Henning showed a killer instinct as he orchestrated  some superb play to take the scoring up to 51-9 by the final whistle.

Bermuda take on USA South in Atlanta in two weeks.