Stanbic Mwamba concluded the 2018/2019 season on a high finishing in third position on the Kenya Cup log.
This has been an interesting season with lows and highs, drama, twists and turns. The team was at at some point consigned to the has-been middle table bin. But like the rock that it is named after, it weathered the storm and posted a string of impressive results that pushed it into play off slots and eventually overcoming Nakuru RFC and into the semis.
First things first, how did we start the season?
Our first match was a 26-29 loss to Kenya Harlequins followed by a 19-24 loss to Homeboyz before KCB inflicted the team’s third loss with 33-15 defeat at KCB Lions Den.
Head coach Kevin Wambua attributes the slow start to new structure and playbook. “It took some time for the boys to adapt to a new structure and playbook,”he says.
The turn around came with a hard fought 13-12 victory over Nondescript at Jamhuri Showground. Nondies were unbeaten and were riding on a high before this tasty encounter. Greg Odhiambo and Brad Owako scored the two tries with Eugene Nzioka kicking over the winning penalty.
Wambua says the turn around came about as result of presence of senior players and the technical bench working on the weak areas of the team. “For us identifying the reasons technically and tactically as a team and decided to work hard to improve on a few areas. Also having some of our stalwarts back in the team Tony owuor, Edwin Machanje and of course Collins Injera was a huge boost in team moral.”
The victory was followed by a 27-15 win over new boys Menengai Oilers before Christmas break. Kulabu started the year with a morale boosting 47-25 victory over relegated Strathmore Leos before travelling to Kakamega to face high riding Kabras Sugar RFC.
As the season unfolded, so did the club discover new stars and talents. One of the stand out player of the season was Tony Omondi, signed at the close season from Nationwide club TUK RFC. The young fly half took on the revered number 10 jumper and comfortably steered the proceedings alongside experience old hands like Collins Injera, Tony Owuor, Billy Odhiambo and Louis Kisia.
Tony Omondi looks back at the season with some kind of unbelievably. “It’s amazing feeling. I never expected to play at this stage sooner.I came from the lowest tier league where I used to boss everyone to this amazing club. The most humbling thing is that I became a regular starter, that shows that the coach and his team believed in me,” he told MwambaRugby.Com.
Omondi capped his fine debut season with a call up to Kenya Simbas trials. “I’m so humbled and at the same time super proud of myself. I never expected to be called up after my rookie season. I have been watching Kenya Simbas play and being a part of them for just trials was a humbling experience. I thank Stanbic Mwamba coaches and teammates for giving an opportunity to showcase what I can do,” he added.
Back to the pitch and the 46-15 loss to Kabras was quickly erased with a morale boosting 26-13 victory over Blak Blad RC. This was followed by a flawless performance as Kulabu thrashed Mean Machine 51-8 with Injera getting a hat trick on his way to finishing joint top try scorer with 23 tries.
A self-effacing Injera pays tribute to his teammates for helping rule the scorers’charts this season. ” Feels great, considering I only played half the season, maybe it would have been more if I played in the first matches of the season… it’s always a great feeling scoring for your team, but credit to my team mates for the hard work each individual put for us to have the season we had,” he spoke to MwambaRugby.Com.
He attributes the turnaround by the club after a string of poor results to developing of hunger by his teammates. “We had a rocky start at the beginning of the season, but a change of mindset from the players and a lot more guidance from the seniors, coaches and management in the club has really helped us have a good season. Finishing top 3 after being in the relegation zone for the better part of the season is such a huge achievement and the players should take a lot of confidence in that as we head into next season.”
He is optimistic that the club has the talent and resources it needs to challenge for top honours. Stanbic Mwamba has had a young squad this year but they put on performances that bellied their age.
“I have played this season with many young team mates most of whom it was their first Kenya Cup season. I think they have really punched above their weight and they have given very good performances, they still have a long way to go in terms of skill development and game understanding but for sure they have what it takes to step into the footsteps of those that came before them and even go further,” he observed.
His sentiments are supported by the club’s captain Patrick Ruhiu. “We generally had an outstanding performance and it shows the potential that the club has if we just work on our weak areas. Finishing 3rd in the league, shows a great improvement compared to last season. The support we received from the Coach and the experienced players was quite notable as well,” he said.
The skipper missed the home run after he broke his arm playing against Nondies RFC. He however is optimistic that he will have recovered by the start of thenext season. “My recovery is coming along well and I am yearning to be back in the field to stand for Mwamba in the next season,” he added.
The club’s brilliant run was cut by two defeats; 34-44 loss to Quins and 15-29 loss to Nakuru RFC. They then thrashed Homeboyz 46-19 before narrowly losing 20-27 to KCB RFC.
Towards the business end of the regular season, Kulabu responded emphatically with a 29-22 win over Nondies once again at Jamhuri Park. This win was crucial as the 33-22 loss to Oilers in the final game didn’t affect their play off chances.
Kulabu booked a return trip to Nakuru for the play offs and as underdog, pulled off a gritty performance seeing off their hosts 18-17. Tony Omondi and Daniel Taabu kicks complementing Injera’s brace. This win meant that the boys would earn a trip back to the Forest in Kakamega for a match up with Kabras Sugar.
In Kakamega, the boys put up a brilliant performance but went down 23-11 a stronger Kabras Sugar RFC side. They were then scheduled to play Quins in the third place play offs but the match didn’t happen with Kulabu finishing third on superior aggregate.
The performance had fans dreaming of glory and they are optimistic that the Promised Land is around the corner. “It was a great performance by the lads considering the transitional phase as a club. I like how the younger guys held their own under immense pressure and I’m looking forward to more growth going forward,” said James Kariuki a member of Kulabu Pride, a Stanbic Mwamba supporters group.
“As a Club we’re onto something good. The foundation looks strong enough and past glory days are in sight…now to harness the Player, Management and Fan aspects of the game and Stanbic Mwamba RFC will definitely be back at the Top… it’s coming.”
In individual performance, Injera was club’s top try and points scorer with 115 points from 23 tries. He was followed by Tony Omondi with 60 points from two tries, 16 conversions and four penalties. Billy Odhiambo came in third with 45 points from nine tries as Tony Owuor finished fourth with 30 points from six tries.
Wambua believes that the just ended season was all about hard work. He now shifts focus to the pre-season and the upcoming Stanbic National Sevens Circuit. “I think for us the hard part is done, the team has bought into the structure and kind of rugby we want to play. It’s now all about preparation. Rest is an integral part in that process. We want the players fresh for the pre-season. That’s really where great teams put in the yards. For now we have started our sevens preparations and that’s our focus at the moment.”
Match Day Eighteen (semis)- 11th May 2019
Kabras Sugar RFC 23 – Stanbic Mwamba 11
Match Day Seventeen (Playoffs) – 27th April 2019
Top Fry Nakuru 17 – Stanbic Mwamba 18
Match Day Sixteen – 6th April 2019
Menengai Oilers 32 – Stanbic Mwamba 22
Match Day Fifteen – 30th March 2019
Stanbic Mwamba 29 – Nondies 22
Match Day Fourteen – 23rd March 2019
Stanbic Mwamba 20 – KCB 27
Match Day thirteen – 16th March 2019
Stanbic Mwamba 46 – Menengai Cream Homeboyz 19
Match Day twelve – 2nd March 2019
Stanbic Mwamba 34 – Kenya Harlequins 43
Match Day eleven – 23rd February 2019
Top Fry Nakuru 29 – Stanbic Mwamba 15
Match Day ten – 16th February 2019
Stanbic Mwamba 51 – Mean Machine 8
Match Day Nine – 9th February 2019
Stanbic Mwamba 26 – Blakblad 13
Match Day Eight – 26th January 2019
Kabras Sugar 46 – Stanbic Mwamba 15
Match Day Seven – 19th January 2019
Stanbic Mwamba 20 – Resolution Impala Saracens 16
Match Day Six – 12th January 2019
Strathmore 25 – Stanbic Mwamba 47
Match Day Five – 15th December 2018
Stanbic Mwamba 27 – Menengai Oilers 15
Match Day Four – 8th December 2018
Stanbic Mwamba 13 – Nondies 12
Match Day Three – 1st December 2018
KCB 33 – Stanbic Mwamba 13
Match Day Two – 24th November 2018
Stanbic Mwamba 18 – Menengai Cream Homeboyz 22
Rescheduled Fixture – Sunday 18th November 2018
Kenya Harlequins 29 – Stanbic Mwamba 26