Not many rugby players will boast of practicing kicks in penalty or conversion situations more than Ivan Magomu and Liam Walker, who turn out for the Stanbic Black Pirates and Toyota Buffaloes respectively in the Nile Special Premiership.
Yet, on Saturday, November 11 in Kisumu, the two missed a combined total of 18 points (six penalties), before Uganda lost the Elgon Cup to Kenya, with a scoreline reading 20-13. Had that not been the case, Uganda would have recorded 31 points. So, how can the Rugby Cranes be better prepared for the next kick?
Helen Buteme, a former women’s Rugby Cranes player said that it was clear the pressure set in on the men’s team while in Kisumu.
“There is no doubt that Magomu and Walker are very good kickers, and they practice the kicks often, which is why they execute well for their clubs. But against Kenya, I feel they were overcome by pressure hence coming short,” Buteme said.
It should be noted that during Uganda’s Victoria Cup 30-8 win over Zambia, Magomu’s boot was so efficient, scoring two penalties and converting once. There is a suggestion that the stakes were a lot lower against Zambia than against a top team like Kenya. In fact, a week after humbling Zambia, Magomu came up against Kenya in the final of the Victoria Cup with a spring in his step.
His first half display saw him successfully kick between the poles twice. But then, as Kenya closed in on Uganda’s lead, Magomu, who had been on fire earlier, missed three successive penalties, before the substitute Liam Walker also missed a conversion in the second half.
A total of 11 points were left on field in a game that Uganda just closed out 21-20 at the death with a last-minute penalty from Walker. Essentially, this is a game that Uganda could have equally won more comfortably. Perhaps 32-20, which would have meant that a seven-point loss difference as the case was in Kisumu, would not have denied Uganda the Elgon Cup.
Uganda’s sevens national team coach, Tolbert Onyango may be Kenyan, but his loyalties are with Uganda. Following the Elgon Cup loss, he said: “Our challenge as Uganda is about ensuring that we make these kinds of games more familiar to players. By playing more test games, you learn how to apply oneself in different situations especially the pressure ones because you are accustomed to them. The fact is that we have not had many 15s test games; the experience Kenya has built gave them the advantage.”