Is It Really A Two Horse Race?
Seven weeks into the 2017/18 Kenya Cup season and it looks like the race to the title is a two horse race, between the defending and immediate former champions, last year’s finalists, KCB and Kabras. Underline the word, ‘looks like.’
Since we turned to the ‘play off’ system, in the 2012/13 season, only one side has managed to lift the Kenya cup title after finishing top of the league table, Nakuru RFC during their all conquering 2013/14 season. The other winners, Nakuru (2012/13) finished 2nd, KCB (2014/15) finished 2nd, Kabras (2015/16) finished 3rd and KCB (2016/17) finished 2nd.
With four games to play, KCB lead Kabras by a single point, the two having not lost a game this far, 4 points behind Kabras are the Homeboyz who have lost one in the 7 outings, the Sarries are in fourth, 5 points behind the Djs with 5 wins from 7. It is almost certain that these four will finish within the top 6 places.
From this point the two other play off spots are up for grabs, Quins are in 5th on 18 points, 6 behind their next door neighbours and one ahead of Nakuru in 6th, Strathmore are one point off Nakuru, with 16 points one ahead of Blakblad, with a game in hand. It is these four that are set do battle for those two play off slots.
In the bottom third of the table, Mwamba sit on seven points, five ahead of Kisii RFC and seven ahead of Mombasa. Until the other day, Nondies looked primed for a battle for the play off places, before they were docked 10 points then a further 2 to find themselves dead center of the relegation dog fight. (Nondies are on 17, 7, 5 or -12 points depending on who you ask, this one will definitely be one long fight.)
Let’s take a closer look at what each of the clubs will be fighting for in the coming weeks, leaving out Nondies as their story has too many angles to read from, shall we?
Regional Logistics CFS Mombasa RC – The lads from county 001 look destined to head straight back to the championship, with no points to show in 7 outings, they face Quins at the RFUEA, KCB at the MSC, Homeboyz at Jamuhuri and Kisii at the Gusii stadium in what is bound to be a cracker of a game. From the four fixtures, they’ll probably get a losing bonus at best from the Gusii stadium.
Resolution Kisii RC – The boys from Nyaribari Chache and the surrounding forests have had an impressive debut season, pinching losing bonuses against the likes of Nondies and Homeboyz. Kisii have been a force not to be taken lightly, especially when playing at home. On their cards they have Mwamba at the Gusii Stadium, Kabras in Kakamega, Quins at the RFUEA, Mombasa at the Gusii Stadium and the match in hand against Strathmore at the Gusii Stadium.
The Nick Abok led side will be looking at fixtures against Mombasa and Strathmore as their tickets to survival and probably a limping Mwamba as a potential scalp. One thing is certain, top flight status is within their grasp.
Stanbic Mwamba RC – It has been a tough season for the boys in black, one win in seven outings is far from what any of us expected when the season started. That run sees them just outside the relegation battle, with nothing but pride left to fight for.
Fortunately for Kulabu they have their toughest fixtures behind them and depending on how other results go for the teams above them, there just might be something more than pride to salvage this season. Their run in makes for some encouraging reading, with Kisii away, Nondies, Blad before winding up with Nakuru all at home. If nothing else, they will be looking to win all their home fixtures, that will be at least 12 points to take their season tally of 19.
BlakBlad RC – Until their loss to Strathmore on game week seven, the boys from Kenyatta University seemed to be in the thick of the play off battle, all is however not lost. Those back to back wins in the opening two weekends of the league seem to have set the pace for Blad. They sit in 8th spot, 3 points behind 5th place.
Their run in sees them host Impala, before taking on Homeboyz and Mwamba both away then wrapping up their league fixtures against title favourites Kabras at the Blad bin. Tough one for them, from these they will probably target Mwamba with the rest looking too strong for their taking.
Strathmore RC – Contrary to popular belief, the Leos have had a good season this far, three wins from six games and a game in hand sees them already doing better than most had envisaged at the beginning of the season. That win over Blakblad might have just been their big break.
Nakuru at home, Quins at the RFUEA followed by Impala at the Impala club, Homeboyz at the cage and Kisii away makes for a tricky run in for John Mbai’s boys. Out of the five, they will probably get points off two, Kisii and one other, who that will be is anyone’s guess.
Top Fry Nakuru RC – In a season that most had written them off, Nakuru are slowly going growing under the stewardship of Mitch Ocholla, one point ahead of Strathmore and one behind Quins they find themselves looking at a very likely possibility of a play off spot.
With three wins from seven, it is their ruthlessness when they were winning and their fighting spirit when they were losing, that has seen them get to this point, picking up five bonus points from seven matches. With the Leos a point and a game behind them, the Wanyore simply cannot afford to lose on match day eight when they travel to the cage, the same applies to the Leos.
After that fixture, they face Impala away, host Nondies before wrapping up their league matches against Mwamba at the Railway club. Ocholla’s charges will be looking at a possible three out of four wins, all but assuring them of a place in the play offs, with the Impala fixture probably a far reach for them at the moment.
Sportpesa Kenya Harlequins – The Quin is yet to taste victory in 2018, surprisingly after winning three out of four in 2017. With the play offs still within their grasp, Quins need to get their act together as soon as yesterday, seeing as they only lead Nakuru with one point and Strathmore with two, remember the Leos have a game in hand.
The Quin faces Mombasa, Strathmore and Kisii at the RFUEA before making the short trip to Jamuhuri to take on their age old rivals, Nondies. Four in four is a real possibility for Quins, that should definitely take them to the top three depending on results elsewhere.
Resolution Impala Saracens – The Sarries are silently going about securing a play off spot at the same time topping the banter charts. Five wins from seven sees them five points ahead of 5th place (too many 5s there no?) and all but assured of a place in the top six play offs.
Their fixture list reads like so, Blakblad away, Nakuru followed by Strathmore at home before making the short trip down the footpath and up the super highway to take on KCB at the Lion’s den. They will definitely be looking at three wins with the KCB fixture their only real worry. With that they might as well start preparing for the play offs.
Menengai Cream Homeboyz RC – The Djs will most certainly finish within the top six, what they will be looking at is breaking the dominance of those top two sides starting this weekend when they travel to take on Kabras in Kakamega.
From then, they take on Blad followed by Mombasa at home, before facing the Leos at the cage. Three wins from three can be the least they expect from these fixtures with the match day 8 encounter against Kabras holding not only their chances of a top two finish but also Impala’s.
Kabras Sugar RC – One of the two sides aiming for that invincible season achieved by the Quins class of 2010. After making it to every Kenya cup final since their promotion, the sugar millers must have bigger targets than just the title, which they have won once in three attempts.
Seven wins from seven, sees them only a point behind current league leaders and their biggest challengers to the title, KCB. Looking at their run in, most may quip that they still have some tricky fixtures ahead with the sugar millers still to face Homeboyz and Kisii at home before camping at the Thika super highway where they will face KCB and Blak Blad.
Charles Cardovillis will be looking at two definite wins, with the Homeboyz and KCB fixtures poised to go wither way, the latter probably a sneak peak of the 2017/18 final.
KCB RC – The defending champions have by all standards had a blistering start to their title defence, blowing apart any and all opposition in the seven games played collecting a winning bonus point in all but one. Each win seemingly making a statement bigger than the previous. Their latest a 43-17 demolition of Quins.
Like their biggest challengers however, they have a tricky set of fixtures on their hands, one which is against those challengers. The Lions host Nondies before taking on Mombasa away, then wrapping the league phase with home fixtures against Kabras and Impala.
Looking at these fixtures, the Lions might just finish the league in second place as they will probably get two wins, but struggle against a re-calibrated Kabras side and an Impala side that knows so well how to beat them.
It might seem like a two horse race, but on closer look it might just be a three or four horse race, whoever makes the semi final will have a real shot at the title. So don’t be too quick to write off anyone, including Nondies, who have appealed their 10 point penalty. If reversed they will be in the thick of the play off battle, somewhere between Quins and Nakuru.
We are in for an exhilarating four weeks of rugby as sides jostle to secure top flight status, play off slots or the better finishing positions. Who will blink first? Who will be relegated? Can Nakuru’s 2013/14 record be matched, better yet can the Quins class of 2010 be emulated this season?