Uganda overcame a very early scare to rise to the top at the cost of Tunisia in Kampala on 4th August to win 67-12.
Tunisia were early on the prowl and the Carthage Eagles took advantage of a sloppy defensive system of the Cranes that saw full back Hosem Khalfi sail through unscathed following a scrum to score the game’s first points. He failed to convert the resulting conversion but with a yellow card for hooker Paul Ssekate, Tunisia were still on the front foot.
The Cranes slowly but surely regained their composure and two successive penalties by Kabras Sugar full back Phillip Wokorach gave Uganda the lead for the first time. As was with the Cranes earlier, Tunisia also had a player sent to the sin bin in prop Mohammed Yassine Ben Abdallah and the Cranes did not look behind from there on.
The Cranes were soon in for their first try, through fly half Robert Masendi which Phillip converted. Not long after, the Cranes were on the attack again and Phillip Wokorach kicked a grabber into the way of chasing Michael Wokorach for the center to ground in the corner. The resulting conversion was missed, the only blooper in Phillip’s record for the game. Again Phillip Wokorach was back to haunt the Tunisians as his dummy got the better of three defenders to let him tear through their defense and run all the way before laying on the plate for skipper Asuman Mugerwa to score right below the posts. The resulting conversion was slotted through by Phillip and the half ended 25-05 in the favor of Uganda.
The second half started the same way the first ended, Masendi kicked into Tunisia’s half, with Charles Uhuru and Byron Oketayot securing the ball. It found its way to skipper Asuman Mugerwa who bulldozed through Tunisians to ground right below the posts for his second and Uganda’s fourth with only 23 seconds on the clock in the second half. Tired of setting up for others, Phillip Wokorach got on the receiving end of an offload from vice captain Justin Kimono to score his first try in the corner.
Uganda was again on the attack not so long after as a long pass from scrum half Aaron Ofoiwroth, found Diego Simon Olet whose quick hands set up Phillip Wokorach, who broke the line and ran past sevens Tunisians to score his second try. Tunisia were not about to let Uganda have all the fun, as they found way to score through scrum half Achref Dhif off a scrum down. Phillip Wokorach’s third try was the icing on the cake for revellers. Replacement half back Conrad Wanyama released the ball into the hands of Phillip whose dummy got him past three defenders to get into a one-on-one with Tunisia’s Yanya. Yanya was on the receiving end of Phillip’s dazzling goose-step, leaving him for dead as Phillip raced to the line for his third try. Tunisia’s butter fingers would cost them again as Solomon Okia kicked forward a loose pass for them, chased and grounded for his own try. Solomon Okia got into highlights reel again with a power run for his own 22 past a host of Tunisian defenders, bundling over Hamila in the build up, then ran all the way to the try line and called over rookie center Ian Munyani for an easy try.
With that score, Uganda were confirmed 67-12 winners over a lackluster Tunisian outfit, with Phillip Wokorach securing Man Of The Match Honors after scoring 37 points; 3 tries, 2 penalties and 8 conversions.
Speaking to the media about his performance, Phillip Wokorach said, “We kept on pounding pressure on them, and they gave way and we scored as much as we could. “
“We were under a lot of pressure in the first minutes but we calmed down and it worked. The pressure was too much because we were the last on the table,” said a relieved Asuman Mugerwa, Uganda Cranes captain.
“The guys are not readily available so we go with what we have. Obviously, experienced players will make the difference in the team but the guys we brought are experienced. There are no excuses. We go back and learn and focus on the next one,” said a disappointed
“We played a lot better. We were patient and exercised our game plan and it worked,” said a proud John Duncan, the coach of Uganda.
About the exclusion of Magomu and inclusion of Masendi, John Duncan said, “It is huge step (for Robert.) I am proud of all the guys because they have been under a lot of pressure from the fans and media and they wanted to prove their critics wrong.”
Abdelaziz Bougja, chairman of World Rugby’s African association, Rugby Africa (www.RugbyAfrique.com), said: “First home game and first win for Uganda in this 2018 edition of the Rugby Africa Gold Cup. Very well done! I look forward to next weekend game in Kampala which I will attend. It had been an extremely busy year so far for Uganda with the Commonwealth Games, the Rugby Africa Gold Cup, the Sevens Rugby World Cup and players, staff and leadership must be congratulated for rising to these challenges.”
Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, Founder and CEO of APO Group (www.APO-opa.com), the main Official Partner of Rugby Africa, said: “It was amazing to see the fans having so much fun. When the players feel so much energy and see everyone cheering for them, I guess they don’t need to warm up! Uganda really has amazing rugby fans.”
Uganda’s next game will be against Morocco on 11th August in Kampala for the second of three home games while Tunisia are still East Africa as they travel to Kenya.