Kulabu, Kings Under The Rain.
I put it to you that if the Kenya Cup was to be played under the rain, every weekend, Mwamba RFC would be crowned champions.
I came to this realisation, after watching the black shirts choke out a 10-5 win to complete the double over the Strathmore Leos at a rain drenched Railway club. Before this they had beaten KCB 13-7 under similar conditions at the cage in Madaraka.
To back this further, their first victory over the Leos came on a muddy and water logged Jamuhuri park grounds, on match day 5. I did not catch the first two, but I was under the shelter of a van for probably their greatest show this far.
It was a game that many, including me, had tipped Leos for a win. It started that way with the Leos asking all the questions. This was until that man Lavin Asego stepped up, from what was his side’s first foray into Leos territory.
From a ruck at the near touchline, Lavin received the ball looked up and placed a perfectly weighted cross kick to the far side. Joe Otieno was on hand to pluck the ball from the air and ground it for a 5-0 lead, then the skies opened up.
Rugby logic almost always dictates that under the rain, the conditions favour the side with the heavier forwards. That side at the weekend, was the Leos. They however couldn’t break past a resolute Kulabu side.
The black shirts were quicker to adapt to the conditions, and their game play from this point read like a script. Defend, defend, defend, then boot it up field.
A boring script you might say, but it was highly effective as what it did is frustrate the Leos especially at the forwards. No forward loves the sight of the ball landing in their 22, when the last thing he saw before hitting a ruck was his side in attack.
On many occasions, the match was turned into a kicking contest, with the Leos chasing the game, this was not what they wanted. The rain had now subsided heading into the second half.
It was now surely Strathmore’s turn to play. They started the second half brightly and it was a matter of time before their one man destruction machine, Tony Owuor leveled the scores, from the same corner Joe Otieno had handed Kulabu the lead.
That try then sparked the Leos into life but could not see them past a stubborn Kulabu defense backed by the wet conditions. The black shirts would regain the lead after withstanding a torrid wave of attacks from the Leos.
No prizes for guessing how the try came about. A big kick from Lavin resulted in a knock-on deep in Leos territory. Leos had the upper hand in the scrum through out the evening, somehow though, the Mwamba forwards managed to scrap through with possession at the scrum. Mainly because of Peter Chege who put in a super shift at number 8.
Chege was on hand at this occasion to pick up the ball at the back of his back peddling scrum to gain a few meters and set up a steadier platform. From this point the Mwamba forwards ground out yard after yard.
Ken Handa was on hand to go over at the end of close to 10 pain staking phases from the Mwamba forwards. It was 10-5 with around 15 minutes left in the game.
The closing 15 minutes belonged to the Leos as they threw virtually everything at Mwamba. First there was a scintillating 60 or so meter run from Churchill Ooko that ended just 5 meters short of the Mwamba line, in a last gasp tackle that saw the flier spill the ball.
In literally the last play, Mwamba found themselves defending a scrum inside their 5 yard line. On another day, with a different referee, the Leos would have probably won, courtesy of a penalty try. On the day however after several penalty advantages and a yellow card, that took Mwamba to 13 men, Strathmore still couldn’t find a way past the black wall.
The moment that won the game, was after the second yellow card, to Mwamba’s loose head. Captain Lavin Asego quickly pointed out that his side had no other fit prop, which meant the scrums would now be uncontested. With the Leos having already called for the scrum there was no way they could change that call.
From the resulting ball, the Leos threw all caution to the wind, taking the ball up into contact. Another veteran, Tito Oduk was on hand to turn over possession, the ball found its way to Lavin who then put the ball to boot one last time, into Haile Selassie Avenue amid jubilation and sighs of relief from the main stand.
Another gutsy win from the black shirts, under conditions that only they seem to thrive in. That result was down to some great shifts from the young Mwamba forwards who under the guiding voice of the Under taker and Salaton Muturi managed to disrupt any momentum the Leos had built. That half back pairing of Kevin Atandi and Lavin Asego was pivotal, considering that most of the ball they had was on the back foot.
Special mention to the Jerry Griffin and Peter Chege who partnered Tito in the Mwamba back row. The former especially, who put in a performance worthy of Man of the match especially in defence, despite his diminutive stature.
What that win does in the big picture of things, read the race to the play offs, is hand Mwamba a vital life line going into the last game week. They have defied all odds to beat KCB and Strathmore and will now hope fortune favours them in the coming week.
At this point only Quins, Impala and Kabras can confidently speak of a place in the play offs. The rest can only hope and bite out their finger nails, game week 19 promises to be nothing like we have ever seen.