Simbas Check Into World’s Top 30 In Style
It was a monumental weekend for Kenyan rugby, as the Simbas steam rolled the Os Lobos of Portugal, 41-15 at a packed RFUEA grounds.
That resounding result saw Kenya break into the top 30 in the rugby world rankings for the first time ever. We are now ranked 29th up from 32nd coming into this test match.
On the day, the Simbas were in inspired form as they put in one of, if not the, best performances I have ever watched. The side wasted no time in making their intentions clear as they took control of this game from the start, but no one saw this result coming.
Darwin Mukidza, who was later named MoTM opened the scoring for the hosts, finishing off a sweeping move from the backs. Asiligwa added the extras from a beauty of a drop kick for a 7-0 score. The stage had now been set.
It was clear from the opening exchanges that the Simbas were going to play to their strengths, using their advantage in the backs to run their opponents rugged, and this they did.
Kelvin Omiyo would stretch the hosts lead, picking up a sumptuous switch pass from Lyle to touch down under the posts. Mukidza adding the extras for a 14-0 lead inside the first 20 minutes.
The Os Lobos would finally show us what they were capable of, stringing together several phases of play to make their first trip into the Kenyan 22. Antonio Ferrador was at the end of some beautiful inter play to score at the corner, taking the score to 14-7 after a successful conversion.
The tide began to turn slowly, as Portugal asserted themselves in this encounter. Kenya did well in containing the pressure through this period of the match, but found their lead slashed to only four points after Ricardo scored from a penalty to make it 14-10 with a little over 5 minutes left to play in the first half.
The man who opened the scoring in the first half, would wrap things up from a penalty to make it 17-10 at the half time interval. It was a commanding display from the hosts who managed to stand up to the Portuguese, especially at the set piece.
That margin could have been bigger for Kenya, with better decisions at a few crucial times. It was clear that the visitors were struggling to keep up with the frantic pace of this game, but at this point they were still in this contest.
Kenya kicked off the second half like they did the first, asking all the questions. It took 5 minutes for the hosts to score as Kelvin Omiyo linked up with captain Brian Nyikuli. The former sevens player, turned back the clock, picking a devastating running line to wrong foot his first defender then side stepping the oncoming one to sprint clear and score. Mukidza making no mistake from the conversion to make it 24-10.
It was downhill from this point, as soon after Sammy Oliech would join Mukidza in marking his first cap with a try. The full back would mark an exemplary performance with a try that had been on the cards all evening. Benefiting from some hard work by Jacob Ojee on the wing, Mukidza would make the score 31-10 after the conversion.
Portugal were in sixes and sevens as Kenya turned on the style, Adimo was not going to be left out of the scorers’ list as he sank in a drop goal to make it 34-10. Second half substitute Robert Aringo’s try would wrap things up for Kenya taking the score to 41-10 after Mukidza’s conversion.
Portugal would get their consolation try with their first visit into Kenya’s 22 in the dying minutes of the game through Tomas Appleton to bring the score at full time 41-15.
The backs will sweep the plaudits from this game, especially the back three of Jacob Ojee, Sammy Oliech and Darwin Mukidza who were all playing in their first cap. I would however like to highlight the hard working set of forwards who set the platform for their backs.
Mike Okombe, Brian Nyikuli, Joshua Chisanga, Oliver Mang’eni, Sammy Warui and Ronnie Mwenesi worked their socks and inner soles off in this one. Realising the obvious mismatch in size, they made up for this with sheer speed and a blistering work rate at the set piece.
We did not suffer at the scrum as most of us expected, the line outs could have been better but we were solid at the rucks. The pair of Lyle Asiligwa and Isaac Adimo at half back did well to keep the tempo going, the latter, who was making his return from a long injury lay off, put in a great display.
There was little to pick from this match for the visitors who struggled to keep up with the pace of the game and clearly suffered from the conditions.
It could have been a bigger score line for Kenya on another day but some of the defending by the visitors was impressive. From my observations, the Os Lobos had a 100% strike rate inside our 22, scoring from every visit. Which is no mean feat.
Attention now shifts to the Elgon Cup, where Kenya ‘A’ will be hosting the Uganda Cranes at the RFUEA on 13th June. The Simbas will be back in action on the same date in Harare when they kick off their CAR Division 1A championships.
It was the dream start to the ‘international season’ this should however not get to our heads as we have clearly made a statement that we have to back up. Here is our schedule :
Kenya ‘A’ vs Uganda – (13th June, RFUEA)
Simbas vs Zimbabwe – (13th June, Harare)
Kenya ‘A’ vs Uganda – (20th June, Kampala)
Simbas vs Tunisia – (28th June, RFUEA)
Simbas vs Spain – (18th July, RFUEA)
Simbas vs Namibia – (8th August, Windhoek)
That is not an easy set of fixtures, we however have what it takes to go through this schedule unscathed.
In the meantime, turn to your neighbour and tell them, “We are among the top 30 rugby playing nations, in the world!”