A hat trick from Lawrence Sebuliba in an emphatic 38 – 12 win over the hapless Zimbabwe Sables helped Uganda Cranes secure a crucial third place finish in the 2017 Rugby Africa Gold Cup in Kampala on Saturday afternoon.
The home team scored six tries through Sebuliba, Brian Asaba, Philip Wokorach and Aaron Ofoyrwoth, with four conversions from pivot Wokorach. The Sables scored two tries through scrumhalf Hilton Mudariki and utility frontrower Royal Mwale.
The match began promisingly enough for the Sables with a period of domination resulting in Mwale scoring his first test try this season. Mudariki’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
This spurred the Cranes to action and they were able to exploit the Zimbabweans penchant for conceding penalties. This allowed the hosts to gain valuable real estate upfield and they soon got their first try through Asaba.
With Wokorach’s conversion attempt unsuccessful, the scores were tied.
Things began to go south for the Zimbabweans when eighthman Kingsley Lang got concussed in the 18th minute and failed to return from his ding-dong test. Within two minutes of his exit, Sebulila took advantage of doglegs in the Zimbabwean defensive alignment to score his first try in the 20th minute.
Wokorach’s conversion was successful and the home team led 12 – 5.
Five minutes later, Wokorach read the Zimbabwean press defence beautifully and chipped to find space behind it before gathering the ball and releasing Ofoyrwoth to score his try.
At this point, the Zimbabweans appeared to lose their composure and their grip on the game. The Ugandans found the space they needed to play their scramble game and in the 30th minute, James Odong took advantage of some isolated defenders to release playmaker Wokorach to score Uganda’s fourth try and secure the bonus point.
The first half then degenerated into a chaotic affair as both sides committed a series of errors that saw action swing from end to end punctuated by a Mudariki try off the scrum, converted by the dynamic halfback to give the Sables a glimmer of hope.
With the halftime score at 26 – 12, in favour of Uganda, it would not take a rocket scientist to imagine what would have been said in either dressing room. If the Zimbabweans knew they needed to be the first to score in the second half, they would have been alarmed at the ease with which Sebuliba scored his second try three minutes after the restart.
Wokorach was not able to add the extras, leaving the scores at 31 – 12.
It would be fair to say that at this point neither side was able to take control of proceedings. Intensity and passion was in abundance on both sides, but the accuracy and composure was lacking.
Both teams put pressure on each other’s set piece, resulting in the defences on both sides getting on the front foot.
As the Zimbabweans piled on the pressure and got more time in the Ugandan half, a spirited defence, coupled with a lack of composure in possession saw the away team give away the ball almost as quickly as they won it. In the 73rd minute Michael Wokorach ran into space on the break to set up Sebuliba’s hat-trick.
With the clock winding down, the Sables’ urgency increased…. as did their error rate. With Uganda minus one, after Wokorach’s sin binning for a deliberate slap-down, the visitors had a try disallowed in the corner and that seemed to knock the wind out of their sails.
Uganda ended the Africa Gold Cup in third place whereas Zimbabwe had to await the result of the Tunisia Senegal test to find out that they end the season in fifth place.
With the third place finish, Uganda are assured of having three home and two away fixtures in the all-important 2018 series which serve as qualifiers for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Credit : Kyros Sports