Friday, January 24, 2014

Stage set for Kenya Cup 'Super Weekend'

PHOTO | FILE Nick Lango of  Top Fry Nakuru (left) beats Ian Masinde of Mean Machine during their Kenya Cup match at the Nakuru Athletics Club on November 30, 2013. Nakuru face Kenya Harlequin on January 25, 2014 at the RFUEA Grounds.

PHOTO | FILE Nick Lango of Top Fry Nakuru (left) beats Ian Masinde of Mean Machine during their Kenya Cup match at the Nakuru Athletics Club on November 30, 2013. Nakuru face Kenya Harlequin on January 25, 2014 at the RFUEA Grounds.   NATION MEDIA GROUP

By AYUMBA AYODI
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The top four teams in the Kenya Cup Rugby League are set to clash this weekend in what is expected to be one of the most pulsating outings of the season.

Champions and leaders Nakuru, who are the only side yet to concede this season, are away at the RFUEA grounds for an explosive date with former champions, Kenya Harlequin while KCB host Strathmore at Ruaraka on Saturday.

Nakuru top the 14-team standings with 44 points from nine wins, seven of them with bonus points while KCB and Strathmore are second and third on 38 and 37 points respectively with eight wins and one loss each.

Quins, who have a one match advantage over the other three sides, wrap up the semi-final play-off spot with 32 points from six wins and two losses.

It will be a crucial tie for hosts Quins since a slip up will see the chasing pack of Homeboyz and Nondescripts inch closer. Homeboyz are fifth on 25 points followed by Nondies who have 23.

Homeboyz host Blak Blad from Kenyatta University at Madaraka while Nondies are favourites to easily prevail against visiting Eldoret at Jamhuri Park showground.

CRUNCH TIME

Nakuru are eying revenge against Quins, who beat them last season 13-31 at the same venue even though the Great Rift side went on to clinch the Kenya Cup title.

The Great Rift side recorded their first win without a bonus point when they beat Nondies 19-8 while Quins are recovering from their second defeat of the season, 10-20 against Strathmore.

Nakuru coach Dominique Habimana and his Quins counterpart Enos Otieno oozed confidence ahead of the epic duel.

“We are keen on reversing last year’s defeat at the RFUEA grounds and if Quins faced a cold outing against Leos last weekend then they are in for a hot one,” said Habimana. “We want to uphold our unbeaten record this season and stay at the top.”

NO FRESH INJURIES

Nakuru boast of full strength with no fresh injuries reported and Habimana believes the team with great character and resilience will carry the day. “We could expect a balanced game but we are a bit better in all our departments," said Habimana.

Otieno, who will be without injured inside centre Nick Baraza and eightman Jeff Ojwach, said efficiency in the breakdowns is what will be the key to victory against Nakuru. The return of Kenya Sevens players Felix Ayange and Eden Agero should give Otieno some good cover-up.

“We shall read the same script from last year and the boys should raise to the occasion after the defeat by Leos,” said Otieno.

Strathmore's Mitch Ocholla said they have further improved on their defence that was clinical against Quins last weekend.

“KCB have always been like our bogey team but we shall have to play our game, stick to our philosophies and wait to see until after the final hooter,” said Ocholla.

KCB and Strathmore settled for a 16-16 draw as they made it to the semi-finals last year.

KENYA CUP FIXTURES (All games at 4pm)

Mwamba v Mombasa (University of Nairobi); KCB v Strathmore (KCB, Ruaraka), Quins v Nakuru (RFUEA), Nondies v Eldoret (Jamhuri Grounds), Impala v Kisumu (Impala Club), Western Bulls v Machine (Kakamega High), Homeboyz vs. Blakblad ( Strathmore, Madaraka).

Eric Shirley Shield fixtures (All games at 2pm)

Mwamba II v Mombasa II (UoN), KCB II v Strathmore (KCB, Ruaraka), Quins II v Nakuru II (RFUEA), Nondies II v Eldoret (Jamhuri Grounds), Impala II v Kisumu II (Impala Club), Western Bulls v Machine II ( Kakamega High), Homeboyz II v Blakblad II ( Strathmore, Madaraka).

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