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2019 in review: Chipu, Lionesses shine in rugby

Chipu players celebrate after winning the Barthes Cup title in Nairobi in April 2019. PHOTO/Arigi Obiero

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 27 – The national Under-20 rugby team, Chipu, and the national women’s team, The Lionesses provided the biggest share of cheers in the local rugby scenes with their performances through 2019.

While the Lionesses reached the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Sevens and qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Chipu won the Barthes Cup for the very first time.

Capital Sports takes a look at the Kenyan rugby scene from the Under-20’s, women’s rugby, Kenya 7s, Kenya 15s and club rugby.

-Chipu dominate on home soil

Dominic Coulson in action against Brazil during a World Junior Trophy match on July 14, 2019

Under the tutelage of head coach Paul Odera, Chipu triumphed on home soil to lift the Barthes Cup for the first time ever with a hard earned 21-18 victory over arch-rivals Namibia at the KCB Sports Club in Ruaraka.

The team had come close for way too many times, and the victory in Nairobi was a huge success for Odera and his coaching staff.

The conquest in the Barthes Cup earned the team a place in the World Junior Trophy in Brazil for the first time ever and they gave in a brave performance to finish sixth after winning one game, beating hosts Brazil in a group game.

-Lionesses qualify for consecutive Olympics

The Kenya Lionesses in action during the Rugby Africa 7s in Tunisia. PHOTO/Rugby Afrique

Though they narrowly lost their Africa 7s crown to rivals South Africa, the Kenya Lionesses qualified for a second consecutive Olympics, much thanks to rules by the South African Olympic Committee that bars teams from earning tickets through regional qualifiers.

The Lionesses capped off a wonderful year having also done remarkably well at the Hong Kong Sevens earlier in the year where they reached the semi-finals, losing out to eventual champions Brazil.

At the close of the year, the Lionesses have just participated at the Dubai Invitational Sevens tournament where they reached the final.

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-Shujaa survive relegation, but new dawn gives hope

Shujaa players celebrate after winning the Africa 7s title and qualifying for the Olympics in Johannesburg on November 9, 2019. PHOTO/Rugby Afrique

National Sevens team Shujaa narrowly survived relegation as a core team at the World Sevens Series, finishing 13th with 37 points, 10 away from the chop zone. The 10 points they picked in the final leg in Paris proved to be the masterstroke of their survival.

The team endured a torrid season after most of the seniors chose to stay away due to a contractual stand-off with a broke Union and the technical bench had to make do with an inexperienced side.

It was not until the final three rounds of the season that a few experienced heads came in and were able to steady the Shujaa ship and ensure they don’t drop out of the core teams.

After the season, the Union made changes to the team and most importantly made peace with some of the experienced players.

Paul Feeney was brought in as the new head coach replacing Paul Murunga and he began his tenure with emphatic form, leading the team to reclaiming their Africa 7s title and qualify for the Olympics for a second consecutive time.

He continued with his revival of the team with the second string side Morans clinching the Safari Sevens title with a final victory over South Africa while the first team, Shujaa, finished third.

The team has started the new season well, picking 15 points from the first two rounds.

-Simbas roar on top of Mount Elgon

Kenya Left Flanker Brian Amaitsa is tackled by Zambia opponent. Photo/RAYMOND MAKHAYA

The Kenya Simbas once again roared to supremacy in the Elgon Cup duel with neighbors Uganda. The SImbas lost the first leg played outside Nairobi for the first time ever, going down 16-13 to the Cranes in Kisumu but bounced back in the return tie in Kampala to win 16-5 on the day and 29-21 on aggregate.

The two matches against Uganda counted for the Victoria Cup where Kenya finished second overall after four wins and two losses, the one against Uganda and a narrow one away to eventual winners Zimbabwe.

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-KCB dominate local club scene

KCB RFC players celebrate after winning the Christie 7s Main Cup title in Nairobi on September 1, 2019. PHOTO/KRU

Kenya Commercial Bank dominated both the short and long versions of the game, rising to victory in both the national sevens series and the Kenya Cup.

The bankers won four out of the six legs of the six legs to clinch the series.

In the Kenya Cup, Curtis Olago’s charges were unstoppable once again, clinching their third consecutive title with a 23-15 victory over rivals Kabras Sugar at their Kakamega Showground backyard.

Kabras meanwhile consoled themselves with the Enterprise Cup.

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