Regular captain Duncan Ekasi came off the bench to score the winning try in the 79th minute as Resolution Impala Saracens beat Menegai Cream Homeboyz 32-29 at the Impala Club on Saturday to maintain Kenya Cup leadership.
The gazelles remain joint top with Kenya Harlequin on 41 points. Quins beat Nondescript 35-21 after trailing 14-16 at halftime.
Ekasi who started at bench replaced flanker Anthony Oyugi at the start of the second half.
With Homeboyz narrowly leading 29-27, flyhalf Nato Simiyu won territory for Impala with his trademark place kick. Ian Minjire rose high above Homeboyz players to gather the ball and Impala attacked.
Their persistent mauling resulted in a ruck inches of the try line and Ekasi barged over to win it for Impala at the whistle. “It feels awesome but this win is as a result of teamwork. If you look at the catch by Minjire, it shows we played as one and won as one. It reminds me when we were young and we were saying ‘never die’ as we played here,”Ekasi told Sports News Arena after the match.
At one point, Impala trailed 6-24 and the match appeared to have slipped out of their hands until the comeback late in the second half. “At halftime, we told guys to play calm and stop thinking about the margin. Impala is a real contender for the title this year and we just want to play well and enjoy home advantage during playoffs. That will shape out on its own,”explained Ekasi.
The match was uncharacteristic of Impala who played second-fiddle at home. In the first minute, full-back Sammy Oliech kicked wide a penalty. The opening five minutes had both teams play a kicking game.
Simiyu kick charged down
Oliech gave Impala a 3-0 lead in the seventh minute with a penalty. With 10 minutes played, Homeboyz had a lineout which they won but Impala regained possession. A kick by Simiyu to clear the ball was charged down but Impala were lucky not concede a try.
On the other end, Homeboyz had a similar scenario. Center Billy Omondi blocked a kick by Homeboyz fullback Nelson Sangura and they mauled. But, Homeboyz infringed resulting in a penalty that was slotted by Oliech for 6-0 lead.
In the 20th minute, Homeboyz took a 7-6 lead. Impala infringed at the scrum in front of the goal lines and Homeboyz were awarded a penalty from which Augustine Lugonzo delivered a long pass to Haroun Lubisia at the left corner to touch down and convert.
Leon Lubanga touched down in the 35h minute with Lubisia converting for a 14-6 halftime lead to Homeboyz who were dominant at set pieces in this half.
Within five minutes of resumption, Homeboyz went 24-6 up. Philip Ikambili touched down first after two minutes and Lubanga completed his brace from a rolling maul after Homeboyz won a lineout.
Three minutes later, Oliech did the hard work for Anthony Nyandigisi to pull back a try for Impala. Oliech kicked the conversion for 24-13. Lubisia was sent to the sin bin in the 55th minute but Homeboyz did not feel the heat.
A minute afterwards, winger Alvin Otieno scored a replica try from their win over KCB last weekend to extend the lead to 29-13.
The try resulted from an Impala mistake after they were awarded a scrum inside Homeboyz’ 22 which they successfully won. As they were connecting passes to lay ground for a try, Otieno intercepted the ball and sprinted for the entire length to touch down unchallenged.
The closing 20 minutes belonged to Impala who dominated possession. In the 65th minute, Robert Aringo picked up the ball from a ruck, passed to Simiyu who fed Minjire to touch down at the left corner. Oliech converted for 29-20.
Substitute Mohamed Omollo then picked up the ball from a scrum to score in the 73rd minute taking scores to 29-27 before Ekasi struck late. Homeboyz collected two bonus points from the loss and moves to 36 points same as KCB who had a 58-0 bonus point win over Thika RFC.
-Source: Sports News Arena