The sports industry has been starved of fresh content due to the suspension of sporting activities as a control measure against the coronavirus. This has led to broadcasters, unions and organisations to go back to the archives and give their audiences footage of some of the best moments from the past.
Kenya Rugby has therefore decided to drop some classics of the Kenya Simbas XV in action on their YouTube channel Kenya Rugby TV. And last weekend (July 11), they featured the return leg of the 2016 Elgon Cup that was played at Ngong Road.
I have decided to do a basic statistical breakdown of that match, and lay down some of the things that could have influenced proceedings in that match.
This tie was important because of two reasons.
First, and most importantly, it was the Elgon Cup. This is the biggest rugby rivalry on the African continent and ranks highly among the global encounters, according to World Rugby.
Uganda Rugby Cranes had won the 2015 edition in Kampala and Kenya Simbas XV were yearning to reclaim their crown. This year (2016), the Simbas had won the first leg with a comfortable 48-10 result. But they were not going to take any chances with the cunning Rugby Cranes who are good at snatching victories from their opponents.
Secondly, this fixture also served as a Rugby Africa Tier 1A Cup tie. With three years until the next Rugby World Cup in Japan, it was important for both teams to maintain their status in the top tier in order to get a shot at the qualification tournament.
On a more personal touch, it marked the heroic return of former Kenya Simbas XV and Sevens captain – and coach later in time – Innocent “Namcos” Simiyu to the Kenya Simbas squad after 5 years. Simiyu had suffered an injury from a nasty tackle in the 2011 Bamburi Rugby Super Series against Ugandan franchise Rwenzori that kept him on the sidelines for up to 3 years.
Darwin Mukidza made a return from injury, starting at the wing for Ian Minjire who had suffered a hamstring injury in the week leading up to his national team debut. Mukidza would go on to score 15 points off his boot in the match in a performance that was a strong contender for Man Of The Match.
Perhaps something that would make good trivia for sports quizzes. Both teams were captained by a Brian – Odongo for the visitors and Nyikuli for the hosts. The latter was marking the ninth anniversary after the loss of his father and had pumped himself up for this match.
Philip Wokorach started at full back with Tony Onyango, May His Soul Rest in Eternal Peace, as his opposite number. Uganda had the Oscar Kalyango-Michael Wokorach pairing in the midfield.
Kenya: 1. Moses Amusala, 2. Samuel Warui, 3. Curtis Lilako, 4. Ronnie Mwenesi, 5. Oliver Mang’eni, 6. Brian Nyikuli (captain), 7. Mike Okombe, 8. Tony Owuor, 9. Edwin Achayo, 10. Nato Simiyu, 11. Patrice Agunda, 12. Nick Barasa, 13. David Ambunya, 14. Darwin Mukidza, 15. Tony Onyango. Replacements: 16. Peter Karia, 17. James Kangethe, 18. Joseph Kangethe, 19. Simon Muniafu, 20. Max Adaka, 21. Lyle Asiligwa, 22. Isaac Adimo, 23. Innocent Simiyu.
Uganda: 1. Asuman Mugerwa, 2. Cyrus Watum, 3. Brian Odongo (captain), 4. Charles Uhuru, 5. Byron Oketayot, 6. Brian Asaba, 7. Pius Ogena, 8. Marvin Odongo, 9. Davis Kyewalabye, 10. Ivan Magomu, 11. Lawrence Ssebuliba, 12. Oscar Kalyango, 13. Michael Wokorach, 14. James Odongo, 15. Philip Wokorach. Replacements: 16. Eric Kasiita, 17. Elijah Kitooke, 18. Collin Kimbowa, 19. John Wandicho, 20. Arthur Mpande, 21. Robert Masendi, 22. Chris Lubanga, 23. Joseph Aredo.
Kenya made use of the quick tap after earning penalties and caught their opponents napping a couple of times. The first try, scored by Ronnie Mwenesi barely 3 minutes after kick off, was a result of the quick tap just inside the 22m territory. Rugby Cranes were slow to get onside and a few scramble tackles followed by a strong maul, the Simbas were over for the opening try. And this trend continued throughout the match.
Uganda’s outside backs utilized the kick and chase. Wokorach beat the Kenyan defense twice – first time led to Ivan Magomu’s try and the second was sheer individual brilliance to give Uganda the lead. Later in the match, at the wing, James Odongo was putting the ball to the boot too.
Despite having a heavier and more experienced forward pack, Kenya Simbas XV were not dominant against the Rugby Cranes in the scrummage. The Rugby Cranes punched above their weight throughout the entire duration of the match winning 3 scrum penalties on the day.
Generally, there was stability in this set-piece. Rugby Cranes had 100% success while Simbas XV achieved 89% success for their balls at the scrum.
At the lineouts, both teams left more to be desired. A lapse in communication across all departments – hooker, jumpers and lifters – cost them some precious possession. Uganda had a low but better 62.5% lineout success compared to Kenya’s 60%. This included two lineouts in both halves at 5m away from the try area that were overthrown and Kenya were able to exit their zone immediately.
The expertise in the Rugby Cranes jumping pair of Marvin Odongo and Charles Uhuru at the lineout saw them steal 3 balls from the Simbas XV.
OPEN PLAY CONTEST
The Elgon Cup, or any Kenya-Uganda rugby match for that matter, always serves some thrilling moments. From sports day sprints on the wing, big tackles and even bigger hits.
Kenya Simbas XV enjoyed majority possession during the match. They were quick to get off their blocks and shoot for the finish line. Within the opening 10 minutes, the score was already 12-00 in their favour. Uganda Rugby Cranes were yet to get in their element, missing 8 tackles by that point in the match.
However, once they had gotten going. It was the best 30 minutes of test rugby that could have been. Two quick tries from Magomu and Wokorach within 5 minutes put the Rugby Cranes in the driving seat to take the lead momentarily.
Then Kenya restored sanity at Ngong Road to lead 23-19 going into half time. Two Mukidza penalties separated by a Mike Okombe try and a Cyrus Wathum yellow card for repeat offside infringement.
There was a balance in the tackling game. Although Uganda had to do more of the tackling, both sides clocked a 73% tackle success rate. The Rugby Cranes would eventually pay dearly for missing more tackles.
The Simbas managed 11 line breaks on the day but weren’t far ahead of the Cranes with 8 of their own.
Continuity was of essence to both sides. Uganda completed 8 offloads in the tackle and Kenya hit double figures with 11 offloads. Two tries of the game by Brian Nyikuli and Simon Muniafu were manifest of how clinical Kenya was with the offloads.
One of the eye-catching moments in the game was the contest at the restarts.
Goes without saying that Uganda had more opportunities to restart, but James Odongo did well to destabilise Kenya’s reception of the ball. Of the 9 Uganda restarts in the game, he was able to win possession back for the Cranes 5 times which was a stellar performance in that department.
Kenya were victors on the day by 45-24, and won the 2016 Elgon Cup tie by a headline 93-43 aggregate score. The Elgon Cup returned to Nairobi after a year’s visit on the other side of the 4321m summit of the mighty shield volcano.
The victory guaranteed Kenya at least a second-place finish in the Rugby Africa Tier 1A Cup behind Namibia.
Philip Wokorach was named Man Of The Match. It was a simply outstanding display of top quality rugby. Fourteen points scored including two beautiful individual tries out of nowhere, and there couldn’t have been a better pick for the award.