The UAP Rhinos re-wrote the history books, beating Dimension Data Rwenzori 25-14 to lift their sixth overall Bamburi Rugby Super Series title in an entertaining final played before a capacity crowd at Nairobi’s RFUEA Grounds on Saturday 2 June 2012.
The first Ugandan side to reach the championship match, Rwenzori were quick off the blocks, taking the game to the Rhinos, dominating the early exchanges. They were particularly rampant in the rucks and mauls, forcing consecutive infringements from the defending champions that were penalized by center referee Andre Karani. Anthony Kinene’s first goal attempt from a penalty would bounce off the sticks, his second would sail just wide as the match remained scoreless.
The Rhinos would surge forward as they kept possession for the first time in this encounter, winning a penalty on the Rwenzori 22′. Eden Agero, going for goal, struck his kick between the sticks, giving the Rhinos a 3-0 lead. This would give them the attacking impetus, but they failed to translate this possession into points, twice let down by non delivery from Agero to Leslie Libasia and a Nick Baraza fumble with acres of space in front of him.
With Rwenzori back in possession, center Paul Kabazi would break from his 25′, carrying the ball 40 meters before offloading to his support player, Edmund Tumusiime who released Justin Kimono with a pass that saw the 2011 BRSS top try scorer ground the ball under the posts, Kinene converting to give Rwenzori a 7-3 lead.They kept pressing forward, winning a line out ball and mauling on the Rhinos 22′ but making nothing of this attack as the Rhinos defended well.
Rhinos would come back strongly, entering Rwenzori territory after Agero booted the ball into touch from a penalty inside their own half. Retaining possession from the line out, Rhinos would maul on the Rwenzori 5′, their forward charge halted when referee Karani called an infringement, awarding Rhinos the put in for the ensuing scrummage. Maintaining their forward push, backrow man Tony Mutai grounded the ball with Agero converting to see the Rhinos retake the lead, the electronic score board reading 10-7 in their favor.
The rest of this half would be a close contest, the most significant incident happening minutes to half time when Tumusiime’s drop goal attempt for Rwenzori sailed wide with the buzzer sounding for half time.
Rwenzori started the second half with plenty of zeal, retaining possession in the opening minutes. Wing Felix Lubega would find himself in possession, beating the gain line, brushing off three tackles before being stopped agonizingly short of the Rhinos try line. They maintained this momentum but Marvin Odong was held up on the try line minutes later. Their pressure eventually paid off when Timothy Dumba grounded the ball, Kinene’s conversion taking the scores to 14-10.They would miss an opportunity to stretch this lead when Odong’ failed to gather a loose ball with his path to the try line clear.
The Rhinos finally sprung into life, the introduction of Wilson Kopondo for Joseph Kangethe paying dividends, when first, Dennis Muhanji went over the try line, his unconverted try awarded courtesy of a TMO decision taking the scores to 15-14 before Kopondo went over, his tournament leading fifth try giving Rhinos a 20-14.
Rwenzori winger Kimono would have difficulty fielding Agero’s territorial kick with Rhinos center Nick Baraza showing the presence of mind to chase what seemed to be a worthless cause, gathering the ball from Kimono’s fumble, playing in his support player Muhanji who released Victor Sudi who touched down in the corner, his unconverted try all but securing the win for the Rhinos.
The buzzer would sound minutes later with Andre Karani blowing his whistle to signal full time. The Rhinos had retained the title, their sixth overall title and their fourth in a row since 2009.
Indeed, the record books had been re-written,the Rhinos become the first team to win the title four times in a row. For Victor Sudi, it was a personal milestone too, the most decorated player in BRSS history now with seven titles to his name.
Speaking after the win, Rhinos captain Joel Ng’ang’a paid tribute to his charges, saying, “It was a team effort. We kept our heads up, we sayed focused and fought to the very end.”
It was further joy for the Rhinos as Wilson Kopondo,who emerged as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, also came out as the tournament’s top try scorer, ending the event with five tries, one ahead of Steve Ogwete, Marvin Odong (Rwenzori), Vincent Mose (Cheetahs) and Bram Shikanda (Buffaloes).
Rwenzori captain Solomon Mawanda rued his side’s lost chances saying, “We had the game, we lost it in the break downs, and these are lessons learnt. We congratulate the Rhinos, they were worthy winners in what was a very good game of rugby.”
The third place playoff match saw the SDV Transami Cheetahs rally from 12-18 to register a 22-18 win over the Lions. The Lions went ahead through an unconverted Curtis Lilako try before Tony Nyandigisi levelled for the Cheetahs. Ian Indimuli and Fabian Olando added a try and penalty each before Ronnie Mwenesi scored against his former side, Moses Kola converting to take the scores to 13-12 at half time. Peter Mutai would stretch the Lions lead with a second half try before Mwenesi and Vincent Mose’s tries sealed the win for the Cheetahs.
Lions player Olando was crowned the Bamburi Rugby Super Series top points scorer, ending the tournament with 46 points, nine ahead of second placed Mose on 37 points.
Bamburi Rugby Super Series
Saturday 2 June 2012
Match Day Five Collated Results and related statistics
Final: UAP Rhinos 25 Dimension Data Rwenzori 14
3rd Place Playoff: SDV Transami Cheetahs 22 Lions 14
Man of the Series: Wilson Kopondo (UAP Rhinos)
Top Points Scorer: Fabian Olando (Lions)
Top Try Scorer: Wilson Kopondo (UAP Rhinos) 5 tries
Previous BRSS Final Results
2003: Rhinos 27 Cheetahs 11
2004: Cheetahs 32 Lions 22
2005: Buffaloes 27 Lions 26
2006: Cheetahs 29 Lions 27
2007: Rhinos 28 Lions 20
2008: Lions 33 Rhinos 9
2009: Rhinos 30 Buffaloes 13
2010: Rhinos 25 Cheetahs 5
2011: Rhinos 20 Cheetahs 15
2012: Rhinos 25 Rwenzori 14