KAMPALA- Rugby Cranes halted their losing sequence at five by beating eternal rivals Kenya 21-14 in the first leg of the annual Elgon Cup at Kyadondo Rugby Club on Saturday.
Jonathan Onen’s try, a penalty try and Kevin Markmot’s 11 points delivered relief ahead of the second leg in Nairobi in five days’ time.
However, substitute Nato Simuyu’s late converted try will make the second string Kenyan side, Kenya A, feel like slight favourtites with only a seven-point deficit to make up.
Uganda has only won three games away in Kenya over the past 12 years; 2002, 2006 and more importantly last year when Peter Magona’s side got a 17-16 result.
This was an error-strewn game for both sides. Under the circumstances, the result was more important than the performance having lost to Kenya twice, 52-11 and 18-13, last year.
“I think we played much better in the second half. For now, we will take the result,” captain Brian Odongo said before debutant fullback Solomon Okia picked his man of the match award.
When scrumhalf Markmot and wing Onen missed two early penalties, the old kicking ghost, widely blamed for the narrow defeats was in the midst during a laboured start.
“When I wasn’t getting it right the coach came and talked to me and told me to calm down I have one minute and 30 seconds,” Markmot said.
Isaac Adimo did the same and it didn’t feel as bad. Markmot, who only debuted last month, perfected his next kick and the visitors responded with a try from a maul.
With halftime approaching, Onen arrived to complete the first real passage of play for a try that was a celebrated by the reasonable crowd like a load lifted off their backs.
“It’s a fifteen man sport. The fact that they kept out Kimono opened up for other guys,” Magona noted.
After the interval, Uganda dominated possession but struggled to find the killer instinct. Marvin Odongo, Onen, prop Martial Tchumkam and Justin Kimono broke the line once each.
Injuries were also piling up on both sides as the contest got extremely physical. The referee then awarded a penalty try to the home side for the opposition collapsing the maul.
Markmot converted and added a penalty. A 21-7 lead looked substantial for a team that defended resolutely only for Simiyu to touchdown with a minute to play.
Eden Agero added the extras and Kenya, who won here last year, had something to cheer on a day when they could have set a world record for knock-ons.
LAST SEVEN RESULTS
Kenya 16-17 Uganda
Uganda 13-19 Kenya
Kenya 52-11 Uganda
Madagascar 38-24 Uganda
Uganda 19-22 Ivory Coast
Senegal 32-33 Uganda
Uganda 21-14 Kenya