For the 2023-24 season, it looks increasingly likely that the team which will be promoted to the Nile Special Rugby Premier League will come from the Central Region.
Not because the other regions have just kicked off their seasons albeit with the perennial logistical constraints but because the independent championship teams in Kampala and Entebbe were separated from the reserve sides who usually tilted the competition. This has enabled the Central Region Men’s Championship to compete and gauge their strengths within their would-be promotional opponents.
At the front of the running are Eagles in their second year of existence and Warriors in their first year of relegation from the Nile Special Rugby Premier League.
The two faced off at Legends Rugby Grounds on Saturday afternoon during the second round of fixtures. Warriors came from 17-03 down at the break to force a seventeen-all draw by full-time.
It was a significant comeback from the first round which Eagles clinched by 32-21 at Kitente.
Head coaches Juma Ochan of Warriors and Edmond Tumusiime of Eagles concurred with each other in saying that the former approached the second-round game with a different mentality from that in the first.
“The previous game, we went in undermining them because we didn’t know how they play…. they brought up the game for us in the first half. We came back for the second half (and) tried to chase the game but could not catch up with the win, so we lost the game. This time, we came in knowing how they play,” Ochan said to Kawowo Sports during the post-match interview.
“I think what has changed is their (Warriors’) mindset for sure. We always knew it was not going to be the same Warriors team that played the first game of the season. I have to give them credit for working hard and not taking their foot off the pedal because they could have won the game,” Tumusiime said.
But Ochan and Tumusiime differed on what they felt cost them the victory at Legends. The former believed it was errors carried forward from the first round while the latter alluded to a lack of experience.
“It was a challenging game. We tried to play their game (and) that cost us in the first half. In the second half, we brought out our game, tried to chase the game and came out with a draw,” Ochan said.
With the introduction of former captain Simon Peter Nyeko, Warriors played a faster more expansive style that opened up spaces in Eagles’ defence. They scored their two tries in the second half and even came close to pipping the win had Richard Kinyai’s kick in the last play split the uprights.
“We expected a much better performance, especially in the second half. But I think also it comes with naivety. There are some of these decisions that players make and you have to understand (that) they have not been at a certain level. This is our second season ever. So I might not be very happy about the naivety and immaturity but it’s big progress. We expected more than that but it could have been worse,” Tumusiime said.
Nonetheless, both coaches and their teams will take the two points for the draw. Two places per region are up for grabs for the promotional playoff which will start from the quarterfinal stage.
With four rounds – but three matches since each team has a bye weekend – left to the end of the season, Eagles and Warriors, twelve and six points respectively ahead of Jaguars in third place, are in pole position to progress to the playoffs.
Next Round of Fixtures – Saturday, March 18
- 2 p.m.: Warriors vs Pacers at Legends
- 4 p.m.: Jaguars vs Kyambogo at Entebbe Works Grounds