Triumph and tragedy at Africa’s Elgon Cup

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As I pondered the reasons why I should make haste, my phone vibrated in my pocket. I immediately fumbled with the piece and received a message which read as follows: “Mukwano (friend), the weather is so bad from these parts—I don’t see myself leaving my bed anytime soon.”

It was Elgon Cup day and I was looking forward to the big match.

The text was from a friend of mine who I had planned to go to the game with. She was going to purchase some tickets as I was running late. But, in wake of the text, it looked like I would have to settle for live coverage on Supersport 9 East.

The Rugby Cranes advanced into the game with a 14-point advantage but history between these two sides suggests that it is far from over especially since most of the losses the Cranes succumbed to against the Kenyan side were a result of overhaul scores away despite winning at home.

Inspiration winger Justin Kimono and centre Paul Kabazzi were unable to make the trip to Nairobi because they had to attend to their academics at the time which changes allowed for fellow winger Jude Kermundo and scrumhalf also winger Brian Kikawa to travel as replacements.

Kenya made repeated incursions into the Uganda Cranes half with Lawrence Buyaichi and Tony Onyango making a series of surges, but the visitors held firm, thwarting every attempt.

However the hosts managed to break down the brick wall defence in the 44th minute with a try by Buyaichi. The ball was moved across the field following a break down the right. An opportunity fell in the hands of the Buyaichi, who went in for a try.

The hosts were not done yet as they hit back three minutes later when Tony Anyango and Eden Agero added a try and a difficult conversion respectively to make the score 12-0.

The Cranes began to show signs of faltering after Bishop Onen was sin-binned. The capacity crowd at the Rugby Football Union East Africa (RFUEA) ground stadia then began to smell victory and roared behind their team.

As the game opened up, the Cranes did have some chances fall to them, for instance they had four penalties missed which result would be damaging if the Kenyans converted theirs.

In fact former Elgon Cup winning captains Peter Magona and Herbert Wafula (both coaching assistants) told Daily Monitor newspaper (Magona): “Our kicking was bad and we gave away possession thus loss of territory but the boys had belief that they can win back the title and they did.”

In the end their belief did pay off, holding out a slim 19-17 aggregate score enough for the visitors to go home worthy champions of the Elgon Cup in 2012.

The Elgon Cup is an annual contest between Uganda and Kenya: the two-legged affair is named after Mt. Elgon which demarcates the border.

Victory for the Rugby Cranes means they will proceed to compete for the Victoria Cup, which pits Zimbabwe among other rugby nations, then later the Africa Cup which also has its fair share of competition.

Earlier in the day, at the Impala Rugby Club, the Kenyan hosts ran riot against the Ugandan Cranes ladies to record a 15-3 aggregate and overturn the 8-point deficit (15-6) they had suffered the previous week at Kyadondo. In simple maths, the Kenyan side retained the Elgon trophy they won last year (although theirs is dubbed the Mgingo affair bringing to light the numerous share disagreements between both countries as pertains the well endowed island on Lake Victoria, “Mgingo”).

The clouds ensured that the rain poured unrelentingly. As smeared as the champions were, skipper Mathias Ochwo and company were deserved winners on the evening although they could bask in the moment.

But in tragic news following the contest, according to reports from Kenya, Captain Aberdeen Shikoyi passed away shortly after the game. She succumbed to a fatal spinal cord injury sustained during the first leg when she collided with Lady Cranes’ Christine Kizito before later aggravating the injury in a scramble for the ball involving several players. She was then air lifted to Nairobi, where she underwent surgery at the City’s ICU hospital until her death on Saturday night as her team triumphed over their rival visitors.

Sincere condolences to her family and grieving friends.

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