• Spirit of the Game awarded to Simone Pantor, President of the Exiles Youth Rugby Club in Trinidad and Tobago
  • Achievement Award earned by USA Men’s Eagles Sevens Team
  • Development Award given to Darrin Barner, Head Coach of Wayne State College Women’s Rugby Club in Nebraska, USA, and Rod Tompkins. 

Rugby Americas North (RAN) Executive Committee announced today the recipients of the organization’s annual awards for Spirit of the Game, Achievement and Development. The awards recognize the hard work of individuals throughout the RAN region who exemplify the core values of rugby and who have stood out among their peers throughout the year.

2015 RAN Spirit of the Game Award

The 2015 RAN Spirit of the Game Award goes to Simone Pantor. Pantor is the President of the Exiles Youth Rugby Club in Trinidad and Tobago and within the past year has successfully taken on a variety of roles within her Club including, the Management Committee Representative and support Coach for the U19 team.


As the Management Committee Representative Pantor made significant contributions to key aspects of the affairs of local rugby. As the Coach, she was pivotal in the success of the Exiles Youth Rugby Club securing the U18 League and Knock-Out Trophies. Pantor has also secured a home for Exiles Rugby after negotiations with the Minister of Parliament. She is a fixture at all TTRFU events—running the concessions as a fundraiser, transporting visitors, and assisting in many ways to make events a success.

“Simone is what we call lovingly in TT ‘a work horse’.” said Leslie Figaro, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Rugby Football Union. “She is passionate about rugby and when you see her in action you quickly recognize her motherly guidance and influence on her charges. I believe that’s the reason for the sustained development and growth of rugby in her region.”

Despite a variety of challenges, Pantor has demonstrated rugby’s culture of sportsmanship and perseverance, both on and off the field, as she has nurtured the young Exiles into a successful rugby program and done much for the growth of the sport in her region.

2015 RAN Achievement Award
The 2015 RAN Achievement Award goes to the USA Rugby Men’s Sevens team. During the 2014-15 World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series, the squad lifted the Cup for the first time in the history of the program after beating Australia 45-22 in the London Sevens Final.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 17: The USA team lift the Cup as they celebrate winning the Cup Final match between Australia and USA in the Marriott London Sevens at Twickenham Stadium on May 17, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 17: The USA team lift the Cup as they celebrate winning the Cup Final match between Australia and USA in the Marriott London Sevens at Twickenham Stadium on May 17, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

The momentum carried over to the start of the 2015-16 Series when the team surprised the world again in Dubai. During a pool play matchup against the international powerhouse New Zealand, USA superstar Perry Baker scored with seconds left to tie the game. Captain Madison Hughes converted the kick from the far sideline to defeat the New Zealand All Blacks 14-12. The team repeated the feat the following day with a convincing 31-12 win over New Zealand in the third place match, and went on to beat them twice more during the 2015-16 season—once scoring a record 42 points against the team currently ranked third in the world.

The Eagles finished 6th overall in the Series this year, but proved that when it comes time to compete on the world’s biggest stage in Rio de Janeiro, anything is possible.

2015 RAN Development Award

The 2015 RAN Development Award goes to Rod Tompkins and Darrin Barner for their work in establishing a thriving Rugby program and facility in Wayne, Nebraska.  Tompkins is a businessman, and Founder and CEO of Heritage Homes—the primary financial backers of the multi-field rugby park. Darrin Barner is Head Coach of Wayne State College Women’s Rugby Club in Nebraska, USA. Barner’s team won back-to-back the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) Sevens National Championships and the 15s National Championship titles from 2012-2013. The team has advanced to playoffs every year since inception in 2002 and finished fifth in the 2015 NSCRO 7s National Championship.

In Barner’s 13 years of coaching, only two of the players on his women’s teams had played rugby before joining the Wayne State program. Despite rugby being far from a tradition in the region, Barner, a former football player, has turned rugby into a household name on campus.

Perhaps as impressive as the team’s on-field success is Tompkin’s and Barner’s work to create the Wayne State Rugby facility which has grown from a few recovered livestock pastures into a five-field, 25-acre, rugby facility that plays host to an annual 90-team rugby tournament each spring called the Battle on the Nebraska Prairie. Even after the rugby fields and facilities were destroyed by a massive tornado a few years back, the rugby duo managed to recruit enough partners and sweat to rebuild it better than before.

Darrin Barner and Wayne Rugby Park

“What Darrin has created is a testimony to what hard work and never giving up can accomplish,” said NSCRO President Steve Cohen. “To do this on the Nebraska prairie makes this accomplishment even more amazing. NSCRO salutes Darrin and all of his players for making a ‘field of dreams’ a reality.”

Barner is just as humble as he’s been successful.

“If not for Rod Tompkins and Heritage Homes, this team would not only be mediocre, I’m sure it would not even have existed,” Barner said. “Our rugby park is simply one of the best places for small college rugby and we are nationally known for our home field.”

The Development Award goes to an organization, team or individual that has done the most to grow and develop rugby in their community, country or region, and after 13 years of rugby service, Barner has surely earned the recognition.  

RAN recognizes that our core values are fundamental to the fabric of our sport, are an important part of our past, and are essential for rugby’s future. The annual RAN awards serve to acknowledge those who lead with these values and who

RAN established the annual Rugby Americas North Awards in 2013 to reward and encourage those teams and individuals that demonstrate rugby’s values, while raising the status of rugby in their communities, countries or region.  

The RAN Awards embrace the principles of the World Rugby Spirit of Rugby Awards, which recognise “the incredible feats that can be achieved through Rugby both on and off the field, and recognises those who through selfless action influence the lives of others, make significant contribution to their communities and demonstrate the force for good that sport can be in all areas of the world.” RAN congratulates the 2015 winners and looks forward to recognizing more rugby leaders in the coming year.

Rugby’s Core Values are as follows:

INTEGRITY – Integrity is central to the fabric of the Game and is generated through honesty and fair play

PASSION – Rugby people have a passionate enthusiasm for the Game. Rugby generates excitement, emotional attachment and a sense of belonging to the global Rugby family

SOLIDARITY – Rugby provides a unifying spirit that leads to lifelong friendships, camaraderie, teamwork and loyalty which transcends cultural, geographic, political and religious differences

DISCIPLINE – Discipline is an integral part of the Game, both on and off the field, and is reflected through adherence to the Laws, the Regulations and Rugby’s core values

RESPECT – Respect for teammates, opponents, match officials and those involved in the Game is paramount