Daunting Task for the Rugby Cranes

The Rugby Cranes head into this Saturday’s Elgon Cup second leg in Nairobi assured of triumphing as long as they don’t lose by more than six points. However, there is more reason to worry than smile as Felix Eupal writes. National coach Peter Magona was enthusiastic before Saturday’s first leg kickoff at Kyadondo grounds, sure that his charges would deliver a much-awaited home victory. It had been close to a year since the Rugby Cranes won a match. That was the nerve-wracking 17-16 win in Nairobi in last year’s Elgon Cup first leg.

It was greeted with great applause but seven days later, Uganda would go to crumble in the second leg, losing 13-19 to surrender the title. What followed were four straight losses in Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) series including a 11-52 battering by Kenya, a 24-38 loss to Madagascar, a narrow 19-22 defeat to Ivory Coast before a heartbreaking 32-33 collapse against Senegal.

That’s why Saturday’s 21-14 first leg win was greeted with a sigh of relief from the Ugandan rugby fraternity. However, a closer look at the team’s display points to a tall order for Uganda.

First, Kenya fielded a second-string side, who were out for experience and a chance to prove themselves. Magona’s team was supposed to make light work of that but stuggled to break down the visiting youngsters. But, they struggled to get the ball in the opponents ’22’ and lacked the cutting edge to get the ball across the white line.

In fact, had the Kenyans not been caged in the last minutes to gift the Rugby Cranes with a penalty try, it would have been a different story. They also struggled during the lineouts and now that first-choice jumper Marvin Odong is out of the Nairobi tie with a shoulder injury, Magona will turn to Romano Ogwal.

Admitedly, Magona knows that it will be a tall order in Nairobi: “I applaud the team for the win but we will have to go out and attack,” he says.

The team resumed training on Monday evening hoping to correct the many ball handling errors. On the women’s category, Uganda needs a miracle to triumph over two legs because they trail by 18 points having lost the first leg 15-33.

Source : The Observer

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