On Saturday, May 26, Legends hosted the first leg of the annual Elgon Cup between Uganda Rugby Cranes and Kenya Simbas.
The Rugby Cranes were second best throughout the game and Simbas were run-away victors, 34-16, but the scoreline does not tell the whole story of the game that assistant coach Robert Seguya apparently did not take serious.
“Our focus is not on the Elgon Cup, we want to compete for the African title and a place in the World Cup,” he said prior to the game as quoted by ChimpSports.
As a contest, the match was over by halftime as the resignation was profound and all that was left for the Rugby Cranes faithful was a little glimmer of hope that their team could get some respectable score from the game.
While Seguya believes the gap between the two sides has narrowed, what happened at Legends last weekend does not point to that, whichever direction you are coming from. Matter of fact, even a person who was watching Rugby for the first time would – with a lot of ease – tell that one team was head and shoulders above the other.
Inside three minutes, the hosts conceded a soft and basic try. All Simbas did was to suck Cranes into a ruck from which halfbacks Isaac Adimo and Samson Onsomu quickly moved the ball to the wing and Jacob Oj’ee easily beat Adrian Kasito with power and pace to the try line.
“We watched a couple of videos of Uganda play and we noticed they like to play tight so we decided to shift the ball wide and it played to our advantage,” Adimo told Kawowo Sports after the game.
It was not long before Rugby Cranes naivety was exposed again. Miscommunication coupled with poor game reading gifted inside centre Leo Seje with a ‘no touch’ try between posts.
At that point, it was clear John Duncan and Seguya’s experiments were never going to work. The Simbas moved the ball with pace and Rugby Cranes couldn’t keep up. Forwards Nathan Bwambale and Edgar Pajob as well as scrum-half Ivan Kirabo were stupefied, and Paul Ssekate, Saul Kivumbi and Aaron Ofoywroth took their places.
Not much changed in the second half. Kenya seemingly took the foot off the pedal and Captain Asuman Mugerwa got one in for the hosts.
Mugerwa’s try only made visitors prove what was clear all evening – Rugby Cranes’ bleeding defense, as substitute Biko Adema crossed to more than double Uganda’s score.
Rugby Cranes’ anemic defense was probably the clearest for everyone to see given the tries and number of penalties the team conceded particularly in the second half, but Duncan’s men were a bit awful in set pieces.
Rugby Cranes’ scrummaging and lineouts were wanting. Kenya dominated the scrums despite having three rookies in their tight five. Uganda’s previous success has always been built around a very solid pack but the Cranes’ scrums had no spines to apply pressure on the opponents.
Uganda’s struggle in the lineout was evident as they gave away possession on five occasions from the throw-ins. At some point you would think the intention was to throw the ball to Kenya’s Oliver Mangeni. Against a side like Namibia, such carelessness will not go unpunished.
The the performance of players who were playing in national colours for the first time like Kasito, Pajob, Bwambale, Simon Olet, and Eliphaz Emong proved that they are not ready to swim at the deep end.
Duncan and Seguya have a couple of weeks to rebuild the team’s confidence and defense as the five-time World Cup finalists Namibia lie in wait for the Gold Cup opener in Windhoek on Saturday, June 16 before the Elgon Cup return leg on July 7 in Nairobi – a game that will double as part of the Africa Gold Cup.
Many will say Rugby Cranes have been here before and thus we should be grateful that this happened earlier and not later because there’s time to make adjustments but to me, regardless of the timing, it’s only safe and honest to say that Rugby Cranes will be fighting against relegation from the Gold Cup this season.