Kifaru Defy Odds To Make BRSS Semi Finals
The Kifaru defied all odds to proceed to this year’s Bamburi Super series semi finals after beating the Rwenzori 35-22 on match day 3 in Nakuru.
Not many had given the Kifaru, a side comprising of the Kenya universities, a fighting chance in this year’s tournament. The side that missed the services of Strathmore University players were left with a handful of largely unknown faces, and were even forced to dig into the Nationwide league.
They got their 2014 campaign on Match day 2 in Kakamega, where they pushed the much fancied Papa to the wire, eventually losing 8-6 in a match that they led 6-3 up until the 79th minute. That performance raised many eye brows but still most saw this as a Papa off day rather than the Kifaru’s prowess.
Coming into match day 3, that narrow loss saw the Kifaru with a real chance of making their first semi final since 2011, when they went by the name Sharks. In their way was three time semi finalists the Rwenzori of Uganda.
The Rwenzori have reached the last two finals, and were clear favourites to clinch that last semi final berth from Pool B. For the Kifaru, it was time to prove that their performance on match day 2 was no fluke.
The match started off with the Rwenzori enjoying the early possession, and taking a 3-0 lead off Adrian Kisito’s third attempt from a penalty. The Kifaru would fire into action, getting points off their first visit to the Rwenzori 22, George Mutuku levelling the score from a penalty.
The Kifaru would start getting a grip on this one, happy to soak in the pressure and play on the counter. They were quick off the rucks, and looked to spread their heavier opponents across the turf. They would soon reap the benefits as Pius Shihundu finished off a sweeping move from their own 22, to get the 10-3 lead after Mutuku’s conversion.
The Rwenzori would level the scores off Isaac Tago’s try and Kisito’s conversion, this would be the closest the Rwenzori would come to that semi final slot. Dan Othieno would go over immediately off the resulting kick off, to hand his side a 15-10 lead.
With the half time break beckoning, the Rwenzori would find themselves further behind as Brad Odwako went over after another counter attack from the Kifaru. Mutuku’s conversion making it 22-10 as the half time buzzer filled the air.
Rwenzori, as expected had the upper hand in the scrums, they however struggled in all other areas of the game. The Kifaru were causing their opponents all sorts of problems in the rucks and were holding their own in the line outs. The students were defending resolutely, and though they had seen the ball far less they were very effective with their possession. What they missed in the forwards they made up for in the backs.
The second half started as the first half ended, man of the match Alvin Otieno would break the Rwenzori line to touch down and stretch his sides lead to 17 points at 27-10. Before the Ugandans could regroup, they were further behind courtesy of a Kevin Bundi try taking that score to 32-10.
The Rwenzori would start reaping from their scrum dominance winning penalty after penalty, inching them closer to the Kifaru line. Those string of penalties would see Rwenzori get a penalty try off a 5 yard scrum down, Kisito converting for a 32-17 score.
That dominance of the scrum would give the Rwenzori a life line, as prop Jimmy Mwangi would be sent to the bin for illegal scrummaging. With the man advantage the Rwenzori were now completely in the driver’s seat as far as the scrums went. There was still time for a come back, and Rwenzori threw everything at the Kifaru.
Ronald Mussajagulanyago would barge over to make it a tense finish in this one, with the score reading 32-22 and with a little over 10 minutes to go. The Kifaru would soon get back to their full complement to hold on to that lead, and even stretch it with the last kick of the match. Haroun Lubisia sealing what was an exemplary performance from his side with a penalty to make the final score 35-22.
The Kifaru now emulate the Sharks class of 2011, and join the Papa from Pool B in the Semi finals. The Rwenzori join their Ugandan counter parts the Victoria on the sidelines of this year’s tournament. The Ugandan’s will have some thinking to do, as their top franchise was taken to school by a Kifaru side that holds players that only have a handful of experience in the top flight.
Later in the day, the Ndovu edged the Chui 27-10 to top Pool A, the defending champions now meet the tricky Kifaru side in Machakos, the Chui will square it out against the Papa. It was the classic battle of the forwards with the Chui surprising many by dominating the scrums. The Ndovu though had that extra edge with man of the match Edwins Makori and Elkins Musonye giving the defending champions that edge.
The day however belonged solely to Tito Oduk’s charges who defied all odds to book the semi final spot. It was a resounding performance from the side with captain Rocky Aguko again leading from the front, Elly Mukaisi, Dan Othieno, Martin Tubula and Andrew Chogo were immense, as Haroun Lubisia and George Mutuku kept the side ticking.
The semi finals in Machakos will be really interesting, will the Kifaru keep their dream run going with another monumental win over the Ndovu? Will the Papa reach their first final in this new format?