This past weekend, the KCB Lions made it three Kenya cup titles in a row, in front of a packed Kakamega show grounds, as they beat Kabras Sugar RFC 23-15, to take their total tally of Kenya cup titles to Seven.
This was the fourth time these two were meeting at this stage, the first time was in the 2014/15 season. From the match day squads on Saturday, 11 of the KCB 23 man squad played in that 2014/15 final, on the Kabras side only three remain, with Max Adaka having lined up in the green and blue of KCB in that final.
While the consistency/experience of the KCB side as evidenced by that stat definitely played a role in this final, a closer look at the match reveals much more.
The sugar men were playing in front of their passionate support for the first time in a final, while KCB were playing a final away from home also for the first time, so in terms of pressure it probably was equally distributed.
But what made KCB tick on their way to winning their seventh Kenya Cup title?
KCB wasted no time in introducing themselves at the Kakamega showground in both halves. While Kabras have been renowned for their quick and ruthless starts, it was KCB who started strong and managed to keep one half of the Kakamega show grounds silent early on.
Right from the kick off, the Lions put the pressure on Kabras early on with ball in hand then applied even more pressure defensively. OJ had missed from a penalty attempt inside the opening two minutes, he would miss a second one on the 20th minute mark, before going over for the first score of the match.
A strong start means your opponent has to work extra hard to catch up with you, the Lions however could not maintain that momentum in the second half losing it early on and letting Kabras into the driver’s seat.
All of KCB’s points came from one of two things, we’ll look at the other in a few, but first it was defensive pressure. Much had been said about the Lion’s line speed, but at the Kakamega showground it was at its peak best.
The Sugar millers only managed one clean line break, by Johnstone Mung’au, which led to the Charlton Mokua try, apart from that, they were left to feed on scraps and loose balls, by the water tight KCB defensive line.
The discipline from KCB, especially in the first half where they found themselves defending deep inside their territory for long periods was impressive, time and again forcing Kabras into errors.
The KCB backs led by Ken Moseti, Brian Omondi and Peter Kilonzo were like bees on steroids, forcing several errors from the revered Kabras back line.
When Isaac Njoroge, who was a stand out performer at full back shutout Jone Kubu inside the opening 10 minutes, it set the tone for the whole game. Whether from their own kicks or from a Kabras ball from a breakdown, the Lions closed the spaces in impressive fashion.
This is evidenced by their form after Peter Kilonzo was sent to the bin on the 14th minute mark, not only keeping up that defensive pressure but also scoring during the ten minute period.
Samuel Asati played an integral role in the second line of defence, most notably stopping Philip Wokorach in his tracks, with the Ugandan having picked up a loose ball and brushed off a few KCB defenders. Isaac Njoroge was another stand out performer defensively.
Kabras needed a quick tap from a penalty at the KCB five yard line to eventually break the KCB defence in the first half to take the game to 7-5 at half time.
As I mentioned earlier KCB’s 23 points came from one of two things, the first was defensive pressure the other was efficiency in attack. Apart from a couple of instances, KCB left the Kabras 22 having put points on the board and in a game that they saw lesser of the ball than their opponents, it was vital
Their first foray into the host’s 22 came from a missed penalty, from which Wokorach booted the ball into touch 15 or so meters from his try line.
The ensuing line out would see KCB go 10 phases inside the Kabras 22, before OJ atoned for his two missed penalties, brushing past Mario Wilson to touch down and add the extras for a 7-0 score at the 20 minute mark.
Between minute 60 and minute 80, when the game turned on its head, KCB had a 100% strike rate inside the Kabras 40, let alone the 22. More on this, next.
Including club captain Curtis Lilako, KCB has one of the most impressive pod of leaders in the league. Of the starting 15 on the day, 10 were Kenyan internationals, capped over ten times each.
When they had their backs against the walls at 15-7, KCB had in their ranks both the current and former captains of the Kenya Simbas and Kenya Shujaa on the field.
It was at the 58th minute mark, right after Wokorach had made it 15-7 from a penalty, that the leaders led by Kisumu pair of Jacob Ojee and Andrew Amonde took matters into their own hands.
First up was Jacob Ojee, right after Keegan (also a Kisumu boy) was sent to the sin bin, the resultant penalty was 20 or so meters from the Kabras posts, slightly to the left, Ojee had so far successfully kicked one from three attempts.
For this one, he was as cool as a cucumber as he split the uprights to take the score to 15-10. Moments later, the shujaa captain would regather the kick off from deep in his half, breaking a couple of tackles before being brought down at the 22 on one side of the pitch.
KCB decided to swing the ball wide, eventually ending up to the hands of Andrew Amonde at the other end of the pitch, Amonde turned back the clock and turned on the wheels, showing Max Adaka and Brian Juma a clean set of heels, eventually being brought down by Philip Wokorach just at the Kabras 22. The hosts were scampering to defend and would soon conceed another penalty inside their 22.
Ojee was again on hand from the boot, this time from a more straight forward kick, it was 15-13, with 65 minutes played.
But probably the greatest show of leadership came from captain Curtis Lilako, immediately after the Ojee penalty, KCB again went coast to coast for the third time from a kick off, they would win a penalty, again, this time 15 meters from the Kabras line.
While the players were debating on whether to go for the posts again or go to the corner, Lilako walked to center referee Moses Ndung’u and pointed to the corner, in true a show of confidence. It was an all or nothing call and it paid off.
Griffin Musila threw it to Davis Chenge who set up a maul and the KCB forwards were jogging on, now into the 5 yard before being stopped, two phases later, the ball was in the hands of Shaban Ahmed who side stepped Kubu to go over the try line and hand his side the lead once again, Ojee would add the extras to make it 20-15.
The KCB leaders showed up when it mattered and had a telling impact throughout the game, the above are only a few of those instances.
KCB utilised their substitutes with great precision, Onyala and Aguko came in at the half time break with Wanjala and Musila coming on a few minutes later. Amusala, Nyikuli, Shaban and Gichure following suit
What the KCB subs managed to do better than their opposite numbers on the Kabras bench, was not only match the standard of the player that they were replacing, but managed to raise the bar from where they found it, which meant that Kabras had a bit more on their hands with every fresh green and blue shirt that jogged on.
Michael Wanjala’s control of the game in the second half when KCB were in a tight spot, Rocky’s big run down the pitch that led to the penalty that sealed the game at 23-15, Nyikuli’s and Amusala’s extra punch with ball in hand and Shaban’s try were all vital in this result, it was truly a 23 man effort, perfectly controlled by the technical bench.
The KCB class of 2018/19 can now proudly pull a seat at the table of extraordinary gentlemen, which has the likes of Impala (two time), Nondies (three time), Quins (one time) and their big brothers from 2007, as three peat champions.
It is back to the drawing board for Kabras, who again came close but just couldn’t find the finishing kick. It is however not all doom and gloom, as the sugarmen can be proud of a superb season, unfortunately they find themselves in the same space as the mammoth that is KCB, but if they keep at it, that second Kenya cup title is not far off.