Nairobi — Tanzania Twigas edged out a hurriedly assembled Kenya A side 16-15 in a historic match at Arusha's Friedkin Recreational Centre on Saturday.
This was the first match between the two countries at a senior level since the 1950s when Tanzania was still called Tanganyika. The hosts who are preparing for an Africa Junior championship in Mauritius at the end of June were dominant in the rucks and superb kicking by their scrum-half and captain Mike Beckner added to the edge.
Due to club loyalty, five players selected for the match did not travel to Arusha. George Odipo (Kenya Harlequin), Malik Ndemi, Kevin Umbuge (Impala), Edgar Abere (Mwamba) failed to travel which saw coach Michael Otieno call up Mwamba and Impala utility backs Chris Asego and Owen Ocholla. Steve Sewe substituted Abere while Ian Indimuli and Salaton Mutwiri also made the trip.
Beckner opened the scores with a massive 50 metre penalty in the 10th minute but missed a 40 metre attempt one minute later. Kenya A captain Vincent Mose who led by example missed a seemingly easy penalty in the 16th minute but four minutes later, Moses Mwole scored a try after Kenya won a scrum ball near the 25.
Scrum-half David Gitau switched play to the blind with eighthman Duncan Ekasi gaining good ground before offloading to Mwole to race over. Mose missed the conversion. Three minutes later, Benjamin Otieno chipped over the advancing Tanzania backs and retrieved the ball on a lucky bounce to score under the posts. Mose converted for a 12-3 lead before Beckner slotted his second penalty.
Scored from good drive
His attempt at the posts in the 36th minute hit the posts and a dazzling run by Mose to the try line was denied. The referee conferred with his linesman and ruled out the try because Kenya used a different ball in the line out! Tanzania came back forcefully in the second half and bumped off the Kenya A players in the rucks.
Beckner's attempt at the posts in the 54th minute grazed the posts but three minutes later, Max Nightingale scored from a good drive by the forwards. Beckner converted from a difficult angle to reduce the margin to 12-11 in Kenya's favour.
He converted as Tanzania took the lead for the second time 13-12. A penalty by Beckner in the 60th minute stretched Tanzania's lead 16-12. Mose put over a penalty in the 65th minute.
After the match, Otieno admitted Tanzania were much more organised in the forwards but alleged Kenya was denied two clear tries. "We should have sealed the game in the first half," he said.