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Uganda Rugby Cranes kicked off their 2021 Rugby Africa Cup campaign with a routine 53-12 victory against Ghana.
After close to two years out of action, a Cranes outfit under the stewardship of Bobby Musigunzi and Brian Makalama was walked onto the Kyadondo Rugby Ground by a new captain in Ivan Magomu on Saturday afternoon.
As early as the fifth minute, the Cranes showed signs of a Brian Makalama side as they opted for a line-out despite having a penalty in Ghana’s 22 facing the uprights. A perfect maul from the line-out saw Kobs’ Faraji Odugo crash over to draw first blood.
Pressure from the Cranes earned them a penalty which captain Magomu left for Adrian Kasito, having fluffed the first conversion. However, much as the Ghanaian scrum outweighed the Ugandan one by 34kgs, the Brian Odong commanded pack looked solid on the day. This saw Desire Ayera release Solomon Okia too fast for the Eagles following a penalty scrum advantage.
An Adrian Kasito conversion paved the way for a period that saw Ghana grow into the game before the returning Brian Odongo crashed over white chalk to add salt to injury. Man of the match Adrian Kasito was successful with the extras making it 22:00.
Ghana would draw the next blood after a period of domination by the Eagles. Eighth man Miles Scot, who features Richmond RFC in the United Kingdom, caught Crane’s defense asleep in the 33rd minute. Josiah Twum-Boafo joined the action as he crossed the chalk and converted his effort. After that, the Eagles grew into the game, but a Philip Apea-Adu yellow card provided Cranes with a much-needed breather.
As had become the norm, another successful scrummage by Makalama’s charges provided a successful eighth-man pick as Desire Ayera forced his way over the white chalk. Kasito’s mercurial boot established a 17-point lead as the teams were sent to the tunnel at 29:12.
After the break, the Cranes were too good for the Eagles as they scored four unanswered tries. Pius Ogena did all the donkey work to give Aaron Ofoywroth free-way across the try line. Pirates pair Desire Ayera and Solomon Okia completed their braces. Adrian Kasito, who was filling in the big boots of Phillip Wokorach, was unstoppable orchestrating the play from the fullback position. The utility back’s boot contributed a game-high 13 points. There was enough time for Ronald Kanyanya to vend a dummy as touch down, making it 53:12. Coach Makalama used all the reserves, with Balagade, Otema, and Maxwell Ebonga all making their debuts.
It was rather a quiet second half for the Eagles, who have to prepare for the Wednesday encounter with Algeria. With a bonus point on the day, Uganda top Group C with five points as Ghana still blank. As for the Cranes, the win, dedicated to Coach Robert “Soggy” Sseguya, sets the momentum as they hope to top group C during their final game against Algeria next Sunday. Topping Group C will put the Cranes in contention for the 2022 Africa Cup, where the eventual winner of that competition will earn themselves a ticket to France for the 2023 World Cup. Uganda last won the 15’s Africa Cup in 2007 as the Golden generation overcame Madagascar 42-11.