It’s a Thursday, a day commonly known for throwbacks and the reminiscence of past days and past glory. Today, we shan’t dig too far but just a few days back when the Betway Kobs put the Black Pirates to the sword.
By now, the beer has run its course, the excitement might linger but is relatively subtle as compared to when you bumped into a Kobs faithful that Saturday. Pirates will go back and draw new plans, keeping in mind that a stern message was sent out to them about this new season, a season that shows intense complexity and stiff competition.
Looking back, it was a game of two halves and my opinion states that the tactical adjustments were key to Kobs triumph in the second half having played naively into the Sea robbers’ arms in the first half.
When referee Sauda blew her whistle to begin the game, it was quite a shock to see an end to end unstructured kind of vibe – something that played well into the hands of Pirates who thrive in unstructured, broken situations where their runners and hot steppers can fully exert themselves. Not forgetting the return of Joel Anguyo in their ranks and it was no surprise that Pirates were ahead at the interval.
A series of events from then on saw the game change like how a chess game can turn on its head after an opponent makes a wise move upon the others negligence.
The introduction of the old guns brought a feel of the Kobs of old that won games even when they didn’t deserve to, an arrogant must win at all costs attitude seemed to take shape over the men in blue, most notably the introduction of Timothy Mudoola who not only commanded but led by example; tackling, carrying, shoving in the mauls and offering support wherever he could, the old man played like as though he was 24. It is noted during recent weeks how the legend of the man; Mudoola Timothy, brother to the coach – Fred, often asked himself how Pirates were able to sweep everything over the course of the previous season without any stern resistance and Saturday was a day where he showed his discontent in actions, clearly his mind was taking nothing less than victory and his thankless job all over the pitch culminated into silverware at the end.
The ommission of James Ijongat – for many seasons now, James has been the go to man for the Blue army at fly half but he hasn’t peaked to the standards normally expected of him in the last two games. In the final, his kicking was off and save for a couple of fine passes here and there, he was pedestrian to say the most.
When he went off at half time injured, Ivan Kirabo was pushed to #10, a decision I vehemently opposed even in the semi final, he slowly took to the game and seemed unfazed by the pressure as the game went on, he played like he had nothing to lose and wasn’t afraid to do the unorthodox, his mammoth territory kick that found possession inside the Pirates 22 metre area was the highlight as it resulted in Adrian Kasito’s try after a series of phases. He continued to play the territory game, showing a powerful but cautious boot that kept pulling at the Sea robbers as they tried to string attack after attack – indeed justifying the coach’s faith in him and making me eat my words.
The introduction of Joseph Aredo to the fray was another masterclass, whether intentional or unintentionally done, it worked and that’s what matters. In my view, it was a case of hitting two birds with a single stone, it moved Adrian Kasito to scrum half where he got more involved in the game and eventually scored but also gave the team cover at the back. There is no greater feeling on a rugby pitch than knowing you have safe hands at the back, Joseph Aredo chose to specialise in diffusing everything that was kicked at the back, from Magomu’s usually effective chip kicks, Haruna Muhammad’s long range 22 metre drop outs and a series of territory kicks that aimed at getting the Pirates some much needed ground – in short, Aredo numbed the Pirates’ territory game.
On top of that, he was then at the heart of all counter attacks after collecting the kicks which meant that Kobs kept running back at the Pirates, pinning them in their own half while forcing them to make mistake after mistake that Adrian Kasito was in no mood to forgive.
Focus on the forwards – like I mentioned earlier, it was a game of two halves, the first was unstructured and more of improvising while the second was a forwards finesse of what can best be termed as “trench warfare”. The Kobs realised that playing expansive with Pirates wouldn’t help much thus resorting to their bigger, meaner and more aggressive boys to punch through the middle and force the Pirates defence to close in which created overlaps out wide and penalties mostly due to offside cases.
The big 8 then did a repeat of the semi final feat when they showed they could still go even when Pirates’ forwards started to tire. At scrum down time, it was evident only one team was winning it from the 65th minute – Collins Kimbowa put in a mammoth performance befitting of his stature as he bullied his opposite numbers both in the scrums and with ball in hand.
And finally, one name – Adrian Kasito, arguably Uganda’s best player in the last year. Ever since his decisive winner in the Africa 7’s final against Zimbabwe, his star has shone brighter every time. He was Kobs rugby’s golden goose as whatever he did seemed to work out in a game where errors were quite many. Kasito prides himself in being versatile; playing at wing, fullback and scrumhalf but the change that pushed him from full back to number 9 got him more involved in the game. He used his x-factor and instinct to snipe at the feet of a sleepy pillar defence to get Kobs their try. As if that wasn’t enough to steal the show, he then slotted 3 harder kicks to push the Blue army’s advantage even further, something that left everyone asking where this kind of kicking has been (The kicking stats across all kickers in the Uganda cup were woeful).
With all that being said, it was simply a tactical masterpiece that Pirates didn’t have a response to – kudos to a beautiful game of rugby that showcased all aspects of the game’s beauty. Congrats to the Betway Kobs.