In what was a game of two halves dominated by either sides, Uganda vs Morocco was a nail biting encounter for the fans and we can only imagine how hot things were on the technical bench. Credit to the Moroccans who put up a very spirited fight that was quelled by last gasp tries from Pius Ogena and Solomon Okia. Many of the boys played their hearts out but below were my stand out performers on the day;
The Kabras based centre has received a lot of criticism ever since his transition from a back row stud to the pivot of the national team midfield. Many critiqued his lack of silky smooth skills that are expected in the second play maker position but whatever Pius lacks in silk , he compensates with his immense physicality.
Such was the case on Saturday 11th August 2018 vs Morocco, Pius has made the #12 shirt his own with very complete performances especially in the last two games. Against Morocco, he displayed very consistent defence, telepathic support play on top of his trade mark barnstorming hard runs. The lad capped off an impressive day with two tries, opening Uganda’s account on the day and then sealing Morocco’s fate as well; the latter in supreme fashion – surely, my Man of the Match.
The Kyadondo graduate played arguably the most mature game of his life to date, distribution at its best as usual with pin point passes that gave on runners a perfect platform to strike and beat the gain line. He also exhibited cunning territorial kicks that gained Uganda valuable metres that put Morocco on the back foot; good kicks are a common characteristic of World class scrumhalves and he seems to be headed in the same direction – Kudos to the young lad.
Mr. Workhorse has been an unsung hero for Uganda this campaign, even when things were not going as planned at the beginning of the campaign. Asaba is involved in everything defensively and seems to enjoy it. He does most of the donkey work for the team – while others shine in the attack, Brian has defended, dug into rucks, slowed down play and spared sometime off to carry ball as well. Not the biggest of back rows but his performances are colossal such as the case against Morocco. Probably why he is one of the first names on the team sheet – Thumbs Up.
“Jamay” as he is commonly known remains Mr. reliable on the wing – Saturday was no different as he did what has become routine for him. Taking on defenders bigger than him and coming out on top, looking for work by offering the support lines, fielding calmly under pressure from on rushing Moroccans and an option for the extra ball carrier. His last tackle against a Moroccan prop, whom he stopped brutally as if they were in the same weight range, took a toll on him as well – he was withdrawn from the game subsequently. But that was all after a great day in the office for him.
Uganda’s golden boy didn’t steal all the highlights on the day but despite not notching up all the shine, he exhibited a level of consistency that is a plus going forward for the national outfit. He was very reliable with the boot, scooping up as many points for Uganda as possible that kept the Cranes on the front foot even when Morocco seemed to have a comeback in mind. His counter attacks when ball was kicked were also influential in setting up a platform for the phases to start rolling in and because of this, he disorganized the Moroccan defence pattern which put out a platform for others to shine.
The Kenya based back row has come under a lot of criticism in the past few weeks or so for a negligible performance in Nairobi that saw him benched for the Tunisia game. He had a lot to prove when named on the bench against Morocco and he surely silenced most if not all his critics. Musajja came on at a time when the Cranes seemed to be in utter disarray and unleashed the beast mode that brought physicality back into Uganda’s play.
His performance against Morocco could have pointed out that he should be an option to ponder for the eighth man role as he gained many valuable metres whenever he carried and took Uganda over the gain line which presented a perfect opportunity for the runners out wide to strike on a back tracking defence – Impact substitution undoubtedly.
Solomon “maaso” Okia was another impact substitution that brought life back into a very nervous second half. The Harlequins winger is miles ahead of the young lad that got his first cap years back where he succumbed to the pressure of the game against Namibia. Saturday however was a story of the rise of Okia, bringing more of his 7s form to the 15s fold. Okia has been Uganda’s ultimate finisher among all wingers for the country at the moment, averaging two tries per game (all this done off the bench) and is surely making a statement for a starting berth. His nearly 60 metre run was the icing on his cake as he outrun two defenders only to shimmy his way past the last man and score under the posts.
The lanky lock forward is another unsung warrior in the Cranes’ set up – his efforts at the lineout are probably the reason why he rarely gets substituted as shown against Morocco where he tried to steady yet another mediocre showing from line out throws. On top of being the main man in the line out, his support play game and ball carrying are a marvel to watch; knowing how to use his size to his advantage and gain metres off defenders that were valuable to say the least.
My two cents