Nile Rapids stun Avengers to steal Heathens' thunder

Nile Rapids flyhalf Tina Akello's mercurial kicking got her the Most Valuable Player (MVP) gong. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

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Unity Namulala, Aidah Namwase, Fatumah Nantumbwe and Jemima Namusoke are some of the other players on top of their game for the Rapids.

Nile Rapids did not expect to be part of this season’s Uganda Cup. They had never played any 15s rugby competition prior and only got into the tournament after Entebbe Lady Swans pulled out. 

A short notice invitation for the Jinja-based side marked the start of a 15s rugby journey that was capped with lifting the trophy Saturday evening at the Kings Park Arena in Bweyogerere. 

Led by the mercurial captain and flyhalf Tina Akello, the Rapids etched their name in the history books by wrestling the trophy away from a more experienced Avengers side following a commanding 25-17 victory.

The Rapids played like a team that had been in the finals before, assured in defence and dominant in attack. You would never tell they were at this stage for the very first time. 

Akello scored all the team’s 25 points on the day, with most coming off her immaculate boot that left the crowd in awe.

Of the 25 points, there was a highlight try the pint-sized flyhalf scored by slicing through the Avengers defence before touching down under the posts and later converting. 

Comeback Queens

Close rugby contests are usually decided by experience, which the Rapids do not have.

But when the stakes were high, it was the Jinja side that came out on top, severally forcing Avengers into mistakes that led to penalties and sin bins to Christine Akello and Fazirah Namukwaya.

The new kids on the block defended the line like their lives depended on it and were quick in attack to take the game into the Avengers’ half. 

Avengers had beaten Nile Rapids 39-06 in the Group Games and went into the finals as defending champions and favourites.

With tries from Akello, Namukwaya, and Fortunate Mbabazi, the Entebbe outfit was in control of the first half and had the Rapids on the back foot. 

Whereas the Avengers carried a slim 17-16 lead into the halftime break, the Rapids kept them scoreless in the second half to turn things around and clinch the silverware.

The team had done the same in their comeback victory against the Black Pearls in the semifinal. 

“Last weekend’s game (vs. Black Pearls) was actually tougher than the final,” Akello, who was eventually named tournament MVP, told Daily Monitor.

“We came in and just wanted to play and get experience. We wanted coaches to get to know which number each one of us could play. We didn't expect to reach here,” she added. 

Like Akello, head coach Ronald Odakai did not anticipate hoisting the trophy in the team’s first-ever 15s tournament. 

“It was all about gaining experience, but we thank God for the achievement,” Odakai told this newspaper. 

Unity Namulala, Aidah Namwase, Fatumah Nantumbwe and Jemima Namusoke are some of the other players on top of their game for the Rapids.

Meanwhile, Platinum Credit Heathens demolished Lifeguard Rams 57-22 in the men’s final to defend the Cup.