The tough face-off that happened at Legends Rugby Club in Kampala on Saturday left Uganda Rugby Cranes in a miserable state when the visitors managed to rule the game.
This game in the popular Elgon Cup couldn't favor the side of hosts when they lost to Simbas by 18(UG)-23(KE) full time scores.
Winger skipper Darwin Mukidza converted scrum-half, while Samson Onsomu and eighth man Martin Owila scored tries and slotted in three penalties to spur Simbas to victory in the closely-contested match.
Battling Cranes, cheered on by home fans, led 18-10 at the break. Eighth man Marvin Odong’ and full back Philip Wokorach touched down once each as Wokorach’s foot stroked over one conversion and two penalties to keep the Cranes well in touch of the Kenyans throughout the match.
The return leg of this annual series will be held on June 24 in Nairobi.
The fixture will also double up as the Africa Rugby Gold Cup and has the hallmarks of being another close affair.
“We knew it was going to be tough here but this is what we wanted; a win in Kampala,” said Simbas coach Jerome Paarwater. Paarwater warned that Uganda will be a big threat to teams in the Africa Gold Cup if they uphold their good style of play.
Mukidza said they will have to minimise their errors especially in defence during the second leg. “We must clear our errors, improve on our discipline and keep the ball much more,” he said. The results showed great improvement from Cranes, who last year lost 48-10 in the first leg in Kampala and 45-24 in Nairobi to see the Simbas recapture the Elgon Cup 93-34 on aggregate.
Wokorach almost gave Cranes an early lead missing a penalty in the first minute but Simbas’ Mukidza, skippering the team for the first time, was sure with his boot three minutes later to put his team ahead 3-0.
The Simbas went on the hunt when Onsomu pounced on a loose ball to land under the post before Mukidza added the extras to extend the visitors’ lead to 10-0. Cranes regrouped superbly as they cashed on Simbas’ shaky defence and lack of patience to score through Odong but Wokorach, who failed to convert atoned with two penalties as Cranes took the lead 11-10.
Scrum-half Ivan Magomu hauled a cross kick while trying to wade off Simbas attack.
Wokorach would latch on the ball to score for Cranes, who extended their lead 18-10. On resumption, Kenya rode on an overlap as Owila dived over the chalk before Mukidza converted for a 17-18 score line. Fly-half Biko Adema came off for Isaac Adimo with Joshua Chisanga replacing Owila.
There were anxious in Kenya’s 22 but the champions quelled the attack with some good phases with left wing Jacob Ojee and Adimo going for some good exchange.
The Simbas got a penalty that Mukidza curled over the penalty as Simbas retook the lead at 20-18 before Mukidza’s penalty sealed the win for Kenya.