Onyango, Uganda Rugby Cranes sevens leave Dubai heads high

Uganda Rugby sevens team left Dubai with heads held high as they registered significant improvement in the HSBC World Series from last year.

Courtesy
Uganda Rugby Cranes 7s Dubai 2017

Even though the outfit managed only one win as compared to the two they got at the same feat last year, several milestones were reached, an aspect that had Tolbert Onyango reminiscing in the bright future.

Uganda defeated Russia 17-12 courtesy of tries from James Ijiongat and a brace from Solomon Okia. Kevin Keremundu converted once as the pearl avoided an all-loss show.

Okia and Phillip Wokorach had notched Uganda’s points in the day two opener against Argentina – a challenge quarterfinal – but the try and penalty were clearly not enough as the latter ran out 26-7 winners.

The opening day was dominated by near-finishes as the Cranes frustrated South Africa despite losing 19-10, a much-improved performance from last year when they lost 46-00 to the same side.

Okia and Philip’s efforts gifted Uganda the first points the country has ever scored against the side that won five of the 10 legs of the 2016-17 series and also holds the Commonwealth Games title.

After winning back to back Africa 7s, Uganda was bound to make a statement in their last match on the first day against Kenya but a second half surge from the neighbours spurred them to another victory.

Just after a 22-17 loss to Canada, Onyango’s men Dennis Ombachi put Kenya ahead with a quick try early on. Samuel Oliech kicked through.

Okia (try) and Phillip (conversion) combined to put Uganda level, but Eden Agero raced through to dive for their second.

Okia was later forced to save the situation when he offloaded to Ijiongat to clear inside Uganda’s 22′ but Daniel Sikuta had different plans as he overcame Wokorach for the third.

Towards half time, Phillip made amends of a missed tackle by executing brilliantly to touch courtesy of a grubber kick for a ‘Kenya 19-14 Uganda’score.

After restart, Oscar Ayodi showed why Uganda needed to strengthen more for future circuits by beating people in the middle of the pitch en route to Kenya’s fourth try.

Keremundu had an injury scare as the match was prolonged, the player receiving medical treatment but immediately after resumption, Brian Tanga was at it again as he scrambled for the try line after a tackle on him a few inches away.

Even though Uganda lost both day one and two final matches, the margins signaled work in progress. “We’re scoring more than last year,” tactician Onyango assured Gulf News in an interview.

“We’re not looking at results, but we are looking to reduce our error-rate from last year, and so far so good.

“When you look at the statistics it’s something very positive. So,we’ve promised ourselves to be back in Dubai next year after winning the African Cup again, and then maybe we can start winning games here in Dubai.

“We’re probably two years away, and half a million dollars (Dh1.8 million) away from becoming a core nation, which is money we don’t have.

“Every Union has its challenges and ours is financial,” he said of his side, which is mainly made up of students, who aren’t paid to play, and only got to Dubai thanks to World Rugby funding, plus a US$1,000 (Dh3,600) allowance from the Ugandan government.

“With that in mind their performances are even more commendable,” he added. “The skill and raw talent is certainly there, it’s just a matter of getting people organised and that takes money.

“But we have a young squad and provided they don’t get injured they can stay together for the next 10 years, and with all these experiences they will be ready.

“Becoming core is the journey we need to embark on and probably in two years, we’ll get there.”

The team has since arrived in Cape Town for a fresh circuit after finishing 14th overall with two points, Okia among the joint three top try scorers on eight alongside England’s Dan Norton and Scotland’s Darcy Graham.

For the Capetown 7s, the Cranes are in the same pool, C, as England, Scotland and Argentina and action will get underway Saturday 9th December 2017.

Uganda will be without injured Phillip Wokorach, Desire Ayera and James Odong. They have since been replaced by Kobs duo Adrian Kasiito, Al Hajj Manano and Heathens winger, Lawrence Ssebuliba.

HSBC World Series Media
Uganda’s skipper Eric Kasiita (far left) during a photoshoot in South Africa ahead of the Cape Town sevens

Capetown 7s – Uganda’s opening fixtures

England Vs Uganda – 12:21pm

Scotland Vs Uganda – 3:20pm

Argentina Vs Uganda – 6:41pm

2018 HSBC World Series Results

South Africa 19-10 Uganda

Canada 22-17 Uganda

Kenya 29-14 Uganda

Argentina 26-07 Uganda

Uganda 17-12 Russia

Wales 26-7 Uganda

2017 HSBC World Series Results

South Africa 46-00 Uganda

USA 29-07 Uganda

Scotland 35-14 Uganda

Samoa 27-19 Uganda

Canada 17-20 Uganda

Japan 19-26 Uganda

Uganda 21-17 Japan