Simbas Roar Loud And Proud!
In front of a capacity crowd at the RFUEA grounds, the Simbas turned on the style to record a hard fought 45-24 victory against the Uganda Rugby Cranes.
The result saw the Kenya Simbas reclaim the Elgon Cup title with an emphatic 93-34 aggregate score, as well as assuring themselves of top flight continental rugby next season.
That Kenya were a class above their next door neighbours was clear over the two legs, on the day though, a stubborn Uganda side had truly come out to play. Inspired by man of the match Philip Wokorach, the rugby cranes proved to be a tough nut to crack especially in the first half when they simply refused to lie down.
The hosts were first on the board, through Ronnie Mwenesi inside the opening 10 minutes, and went further ahead with a try and conversion from David Ambunya and Darwin Mukidza to make it 12-0. Mukidza a late replacement for Ian Minjire who suffered a hamstring injury during the captain’s run.
The Simbas had settled in perfectly, punching gaps in the Uganda defence in first phase ball, could we be in for a one way traffic match up here?
The Rugby cranes re gathered and started putting phases of their own together, through their forwards. Within minutes, they were inside the Kenya 22, Ivan Magomu barging over after a consistent wave of pressure. Philip Wokorach was on hand to convert to take the scores to 12-7.
Uganda were just as quick as the Kenyans in getting their second, an aimless clearance kick was gathered by Philip Wokorach, what followed was pure magic. Wokorach looked like he was going to punt it back for touch before he quickly changed stance to place a perfectly weighted chip over the onrushing defence line.
He regathered the ball, now with two defenders to beat he again placed a deft chip over Tony Onyango, and won the ensuing foot race to regather the ball once more and go over under the posts. Wokorach would then seal the seven pointer with a successful conversion to hand Uganda the lead at 12-14.
The RFUEA was stunned, and rightfully so, what had seemed like a foregone conclusion a few minutes ago was now in real doubt. The Simbas would however retake the lead through a Darwin Mukidza penalty that made it 15-14. They were however soon back under the cosh, after Davis Kiwalabye’s unconverted try to take the score to 15-19 in Uganda’s favour.
It was a see-saw affair up to this point having played around 25 minutes, that was until Uganda were reduced to 14 men with the hooker sent to the sinners chair after an infringement at the ruck. Mukidza was on hand to punish the Rugby cranes immediately, off the resultant penalty to make it 18-19.
Mike Okombe would land a try just before the breather, Kenya going into the break leading 23-19. What had started off as a seemingly easy match had turned out to be a real handful for the Simbas. The Rugby cranes had gotten over their slow start and were now matching the Kenyans at the set piece and making the most out of their mistakes.
Jerome rang in the changes for the second half, replacing 4 of his starting tight five. The Kangethe twins now partnering Peter Kaaria in an all new front row and Simon Muniafu taking over from Ronnie Mwenesi at lock.
Kenya started the second half as they did the first with two scores inside the opening 10 minutes. First up was Darwin Mukidza off a penalty to make it 26-19, before captain Brian Nyikuli rounded off a well worked move with a somersault try to make it 33-19 after Mukidza’s conversion.
It was all Simbas in the second half, they had tightened up their defence line and stifled any thing the Ugandans threw their way. On the other hand the Cranes struggled to find a reply to Kenya’s exploits like they had in the first half. Philip Wokorach was however still at his dazzling best as he grabbed his brace of tries to make it 33-24.
From this point on, it was all Simbas as they kicked in to extra gear, Oliver Mang’eni was now plucking Uganda’s line outs like his own. The Ugandans were getting no clean ball at the rucks and thus struggled in possession.
Issac Adimo had come in for Nato Simiyu and that man Namcos had made his long awaited come back in front of the home crowd, replacing Patrice Agunda.
Namcos almost made an immediate impact, playing at wing, he broke the Uganda defence line only to be bundled over a few meters from the try line. The ensuing phase saw Simon Muniafu go over to make it 38-24, Mukidza converting to make it 40-24. Max Adaka, playing in his 11th cap put the icing on what was an emphatic win with a try at the death for a 45-24 full time score.
That result was Kenya’s 17th win against Uganda, out of the 27 times they have played. As mentioned earlier, it sees Kenya win the 2016 Elgon cup, their 10th in the tournament’s 13 year history. More importantly though, it ensures that the Simbas retain top flight status in the continent and still with a shot at qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Credit to the Ugandans who put up a spirited fight, especially in the first half when they gave most of us real scares. They will have to wait for the result between Namibia and Zimbabwe next weekend to know if they will hold on to their Division 1A status.
Man of the match Philip Wokorach was definitely the toast of the match, his 14 points for Uganda, the most by any player on the field, Darwin Mukidza managed 12 points off the boot. He was a constant threat with ball in hand and single handedly saved Uganda’s blushes on several occasions.
Kenya’s Mike Okombe was another player worth a mention, the no none sense Nakuru back row was impressive going forward and in defence, he was immense in the Simbas play.
The Simbas play Hong Kong next on the 23rd and 27th August at the same venue, let’s fill it up on both occasions, shall we?
Till then, the local sevens circuit kicks off this weekend at the Prinsloo 7s (6th & 7th August), then there is the small matter of Rugby sevens in Rio, the ladies kick off their campaign on 6th August, with the Shujaa starting theirs on 9th August. Definitely a big Rugby month coming up, for now though…