Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dance to Homeboyz’s top rugby beat

Homeboyz rugby team players with Kenya Rugby Union chairman Richard Omwela after winning the Eric Shield trophy at RFUEA ground. Kenya Rugby Union elections and AGM are on today. Photo/ CHRIS OMOLLO

Homeboyz rugby team players with Kenya Rugby Union chairman Richard Omwela after winning the Eric Shield trophy at RFUEA ground. Kenya Rugby Union elections and AGM are on today. Photo/ CHRIS OMOLLO 

By AYUMBA AYODI

Not even a prophet could have predicted this. It’s the kind of stuff that every amateur player dreams of: When athletes overcome the toughest of odds in pursuit of their dream.

This could pass for a blockburster movie, in much the same vein the Springboks’ triumphant display at the 1995 Rugby World Cup at Ellis Park against Jonah Lomu & Co. inspired the production of the Hollywood thriller Invictus.

Homeboyz - a household name in the entertainment circles - joined the pack as the underdogs, but they left as the bulldogs.

When Homeboyz RFC stunned big guns to claim glory in the Eric Shirley Shield League last weekend, many were thrilled while the usual suspects were left scratching their heads in disbelief over how the minnows had pulled it off.

But the trick was the change of format in this year’s tournament. Organisers grouped all the teams into two pools - East and West. To the surprise of many, it was Homeboyz and Kisumu RFC - two ‘small teams’ that had virtually been written off going into the tournament - that called the shots in both pools.

Kenya Harlequin, Impala and Kenya Commercial Bank - teams that had dominated the competition over the years - were left chasing shadows by the new kids on the block.

Bruising battle

Homeboyz reigned supreme in East while Kisumu RFC ruled in the West pool.

The two then set up a thrilling finale which swung from end to end in the initial exchanges before Homeboyz eventually prevailed in a scoreline that, quite frankly, did not reflect the bruising battle on the pitch that had kept fans on their toes throughout the clash.

Homeboyz, employing great skill, tactics and gifted with pacy players, claimed a convincing 34-10 win in the thrilling final played at the University of Nairobi grounds before a capacity crowd.

Homeboyz began their adventure in competitive rugby last year with the National Sevens Circuit before forming a team for the ESS league in February this year.

Most of their players were poached from KCB, Impala and Mwamba. Their average age is only 22.

“Many didn’t expect us to go far. In fact, the plans were made without Homeboyz in mind since many thought that this year’s ESS would be the same old script,” said Homeboyz chairman Myke Rabar.

The team’s coach-cum-player Paul “Pau” Murunga, said the youngsters were driven by an acute hunger for glory.

“We won all our matches with bonus points before setting up the semi-final clash with Masinde Muliro University driven by our hunger for success. This hunger, coupled with the team’s discipline, propelled us to the top,” said Murunga.

In that semi-final, they easily cruised to an emphatic 53-10 victory over Masinde Muliro before annihilating Kisumu RFC in the ultimate showdown.

Driving seat

In the final, Kisumu drew first blood when Kevin Keegan put the lakeside team ahead with a converted try but Steve Sakwa was to restore parity when he converted his own try before adding a penalty to give Homeboyz a 10-7 lead.

Ian Indimuli’s try was converted by Sakwa to power Homeboyz to a 17-7 half-time lead. Steve Matioli’s drop goal put Homeboyz firmly in the driving seat 20-7 but Keegan’s penalty reduced the deficit to 20-10. Homeboyz were home and dry when Sakwa converted Sebastian Shivoka and Oscar Ayodi’s tries for a sweet finish.

Riding on that success and the enthusiasm their players have displayed, Murunga and Rabar are now laying the groundwork for a grand entry into the premier Kenya Cup league next season.

“Our victory margins spoke volumes and I think we are ripe for the topflight of Kenyan rugby,” said Rabar. “ Our success is historic in Kenyan rugby. We believe our quality deserves promotion and that was our main target when we joined ESS league where we spent about Sh2 million.”

Murunga shares Rabar’s sentiments: “It will really demoralise the players if we are not promoted. We want to take this kids to the next level.”

Likening Homeboyz’s success to Kenyan Premier League football champions Sofapaka, Rabar credited his team’s brilliant show to good organisation and planning.