The atmosphere at Legends on Saturday was palpable from the opening whistle when Zimbabwe Sables scored a try in the first minute of their Victoria Cup game against Uganda Rugby Cranes.
That was an indicator of the things to come, and yes, Uganda’s players and fans knew it was going to be a long evening.
Zimbabwe were fearless. They had a peerless approach and their quick game left Uganda dazzled and soon the scoreboard was reading 19-00 in their favour. Uganda were simply blowing hot and cold. To some fans, it was as good as over for the hosts.
But in dramatic fashion, Uganda clawed back and levelled the scoring board, majorly through fullback Philip Wokorach’s boot and Desire Ayera’s two tries on his full debut.
Uganda was showing a fighting spirit that coach Robert Seguya is known for preaching but when replacement scrumhalf Aaron Ofoyrwoth’s checkered disciplinary record earned him a yellow, Zimbabwe welcomed his 10 minutes in the sinbin with two hands.
With a numerical advantage, the men in green and white scored two more tries and pulled away, for good.
Familiar hunting territory it has become, because Uganda also lost to Zimbabwe at home last year in the Gold Cup.
“The plan was to mount the pressure from the beginning and it worked with the early scores. Don’t be mistaken thinking it was an easy game, we had moments where we struggled but we held on,” remarked Jason Maritz, the Zimbabwe tactician.
In a game where Uganda struggled with decision making and poor combinations, it leaves a lot of questions to be answered, and space on the proverbial drawing board looks to be running thin.
Two losses in three opening Victoria Cup games could be an indicator of what awaits Uganda in the Rugby Africa Cup later in the year.
In the other game, Kenya defeated Zambia 43-23 to secure leadership of the table. The Cranes have to redeem themselves against Zambia in Lusaka on August 10.
Uganda 26-31 Zimbabwe
Kenya 43-23 Zambia
Takudzwa Kumadiro (2 tries)
Hilton Mudariki (3 conversions)
Phillip Wokorach (3 penalties, 2 convertions, 1 drop goal)
Desire Ayera (2 tries)