Quins ward off Mwamba, Kabras reach Kenya Cup semis

Kevin Ochami (with ball) of Resolution Impala Saracens is tackled by Isaac Adimo of Kenya ...
Kevin Ochami (with ball) of Resolution Impala Saracens is tackled by Isaac Adimo of Kenya Harlequins during their Kenya Cup round 5 tie at the Impala Grounds on December 03, 2016. Harlequins RFC won 28-10. Photo/ Skarra Abayomi/Sportpicha/Citizen

Kenya Harlequins survived a late Mwamba scare to reach the Kenya Cup semifinal with a 32-31 win at the RFUEA Ground on Saturday.

In the other playoff, champions Kabras Sugar built on a 12-8 half time lead to reach the semis with a 12-18 win over hosts Resolution Impala Saracens at the Impala Club.

At the RFUEA, it was an edge of the seat affair right from kickoff, the plots and subplots taking both sets of fans through a rollercoaster of emotion.

Quins began with purpose and intent, drawing a penalty off Mwamba early on, Kevin Keegan sure with the goal attempt to put his side 3-0 up.

Brad Owako would pounce on a stray Quins pass, punch through before coming down in the tackle.  Center referee Andrew Karani would penalize Quins, George Mutuku sure with the threes to tie the score, 3-3 after seven minutes of play.

The game was fluid, the structural script thrown out of the window, each team giving and taking as much as they could. Keegan would convert Wilson Kopondp’s try to see Quins go 10-3 up on ten minutes. A massive Mutuku penalty si minutes later kept Mwamba in touch, 10-6.

With Quins tails up and on the attack, Mwamba’s Humphrey Kayange would intercept the ball deep in his half, racing almost the entire length of the pitch, leaving several defenders in his wake to score under the posts, Mutuku’s conversion giving Mwamba the lead for the first time in this match, 13-10 after twenty minutes.

The give and take continued, Dennis Muhanji going over, Keegan converting as Quins retook the lead, 17-13 with eight minutes to the interval before Peter Misango punished the fleeting Mwamba defense to touch down, Quins taking the 22-13 lead into the breather.

A team needed to score after the restart and it was Mwamba who heeded that call. Lavin Asego’s massive kick created problems for the Quins back three and off the ensuing phases, 19 year old Paul Wahome barged over the chalk, Mutuku’s conversion bringing the score to 22-20 two minutes into the second half.

Quins would soon lose the influential Keegan to injury, Pius Shiundu coming on in his place.

Asego’s boot would continue to bother the Quins back three and he would soon drill home a massive drop goal as to Kulabu 23-20 up nine minutes into the second half.

Quins response was swift, Brian Okwomi going over with Shiundu adding the extras for a 27-23 score.

The hosts had seemingly regrouped, James Kang’ethe scoring from the tail of the rolling maul, Shiundu missing the conversion, 32-23 sixteen minutes into the second half.

As has been Mwamba’s story all season, they never seem to know when to quit. They kept tugging at Quins,summoning their inner energizer bunny.  Mutuku’s penalty after Karani penalized the hosts for failing to release the tackler bringing the score to 32-26 on the hour mark.

The ensuing eleven or so minutes were tentative, nerve wracking et al… the anxiety on both sides clearly evident. Mwamba had Quins on the ropes, the big question was whether they had the nerve to go all the way.

They would get points on the board, Andrew Karani awarding the try after consultation with the Television Match Official., 32-31, with four minutes to play.

Mutuku’s slender frame was tasked with the huge responsibility of  taking the pressure kick that would give Mwamba the lead, and probably the game. He missed the relatively straightforward kick, the pressure unnerving the normally calm and collected half back. He would miss another opportunity with a minute to play and when Quins flyhalf booted the ball out to touch moments later, the Quins faithful let out a roar of relief and joy…the disappointment from the Mwamba crowd clear for all and sundry.

Up next is a clash against KCB at the KCB Sports Club on Saturday 8 April.

-Report by the kenyacup.co.ke.

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