Ugandan rugby largely registered success in 2018 given the huge number of hiccups and here are definitely the top Ugandan rugby stories. Be it local or international, the game got Uganda more recognition than ever.
Pirates complete the treble
It is disrespectful to talk top Ugandan rugby stories and fail to start with Pirates and their title heroics. After a nerve wrecking semi-final against Legends based Kobs Rugby Club, Pirates took on Hima Cement Heathens and won the 2017 Uganda Cup, issuing revenge for the a 2016 loss. This would set the platform for a memorable 2017-2018 season. Going to the 15s premiership season, the Pirates registered one boardroom loss and one loss on the green. The late arrival of medical personnel saw a walkover handed against them to Plascon Mongers, giving them their first loss of the season. They were on course to go unbeaten after that but a Kevin Makmot penalty proved vital as they lost 3-0 to runners up Shell Rimula Rhinos.
Fast forward to June, the 7s competition rounds up the year and Pirates knew they had to dig very deep to win and make history. They showed intent and won the first two outings i.e Kyadondo and Jinja. They later added Coronation 7s to their list of wins, having shared other outings with the 7s academy, Toyota Buffaloes and Betway Kobs. At the summation at the festival floodlights at Kyadondo, Pirates were overall winners, making them the first side in Uganda’s history to clinch the Uganda Cup, 15s premiership title and National 7s title in a rugby calendar year.
Uganda at Rugby Sevens World Cup:
7s rugby has not been as popular in the country as 15-a-side rugby but in the last three years, Uganda has become a continental powerhouse, propelling us to the global stage. Back-to-back (2016 and 2017) Africa 7s championships later, Uganda were present at Dubai 7s and Capetown 7s. After the 2017 Africa 7s victory in Kampala, Uganda were assured of participating in the Rugby Sevens World Cup for the first time ever. With a new format, Uganda met Samoa in the Pre round of 16, and a 45-07 loss meant that the then African Champions were demoted to the Bowl Competition. Michael Wokorach got Uganda’s first ever try at the Sevens world cup.
In the Bowl, Uganda came up against 2017 runners up Zimbabwe and ran away 24-10 winners thanks to tries from Solomon Okia, Philip Wokorach and James Odong (2). Nerves came back to haunt Uganda in the Bowl Semis against Chile, with the latter winning 20-17 despite Uganda scoring three tries through Timothy Kisiga and Philip Wokorach(2). That loss pit Uganda against Uruguay in the 19th place playoff, and the 2017 African Champions won 38-28 on the back of a hat-trick of tries from Timothy Kisiga, supplmented by others from Philip Wokorach, Ogena Pius and Aaron Ofoywroth.
Uganda went to San Francisco seeded 20, only above Tonga, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea and Jamaica but with two losses and two wins, they finished a place higher.
Top Points scorers:
- Phillip Wokorach – 30
- Timothy Kisiga – 20
- Aaron ofoiwroth – 11
- James Odong – 10
- Solomon Okia – 5
- Michael Wokorach – 5
- Pius Ogena – 5
Women Africa 7s in Botswana
Despite logistics challenges, Helen Buteme’s ladies made it to Botswana and played beyond expectations. In the absence of South Africa, it was most definitely going to be between the two East African nations, Kenya represented by the lionesses, and Uganda represented by the Lady Cranes. Uganda started their chase for the title with a 22-0 win over Zimbabwe before drawing 10-10 with Tunisia.
Day 2 saw Uganda defeat Senegal 12-05 before meeting Tunisia (again) in the semis. After a tight 5-5 half time score, the lady Cranes won it in the second period setting up a date with Kenya Lionesses in the finale. A Lioness dominance saw the lady Cranes lose 29-07 and secure runners up position.
Africa 7s in Tunisia
Three trophies are better than two. Obviously! Uganda were not going for just three, but three in a row. Tunisia presented Uganda with a unique opportunity to defend the Africa Rugby 7s crown which they had won in Kampala in 2017. Day one was a clean sweep for the defending champions who did not concede a single point.
Day 2 presented the roughest tests, with Tunisia in the quarterfinals almost causing an upset but the Cranes grilled out a 14-10 win. The semifinal was a repeat of the 2017 final as Uganda played Zimbabwe. A very dominant first half saw Uganda lead 19-00 at half time before all hell broke loose. Aaron Ofoywroth saw red less than a minute into the second half and Zimbabwe opened the floodgates. They scored four tries without a reply from Uganda to win 24-19.
With the third place payoff against Madagascar now assured, it was the only chance to save face for the former champions. Madagascar were not easy opponents but a late Adrian Kasito run gave Uganda a much needed 24-19 win.
Notable Events : Rugby Africa Gold Cup