Western Bulls, Catholic Monks and Kisumu RFC won their weekend matches to pile more pressure to log leaders USIU as the 2019 KRU Championship breaks for Christmas holidays.
The Kakamega-based Bulls saw off University of Eldoret 15-8 to remain second with 19 points, while Monks emerged with a 24-5 victory over visiting Egerton University. They are third with 18 points.
Kisumu RFC defeated Kitale RFC 14-10 to end the year in fifth spot on the log as race for 2020 Kenya Cup promotion intensifies.
The match that was staged on a rainy evening saw Bulls go ahead courtesy of a try by Rogeshian Odhiambo.
The inform Odhiambo stretched the lead with a second try at the corner flag before captain Willis Mwinamo added a third for Bulls, who did not convert any try.
However, the students did not go empty-handed as their second half resilience resulted to a penalty and a try with the game ending 15-8.
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Western Bulls head coach Bram Shikanda attributed the win to hard work and passion in the team saying they are now going to restructure and build on their weaknesses before the Championships resume on January 12.
“I am happy we are only two points behind leaders USIU and second in the log. We are now going back to the drawing board to correct our lapses for us to return stronger next year as we pursue our goal of playing in the Kenya Cup next season,” Shikanda said.
USIU lead with two points, followed by Bulls, Monks, Kisii and Kisumu. [Washington Onyango]
Harlequins moved to the top of European Challenge Cup Pool Five with a 20-9 victory over Benetton Rugby.
First-half tries from Lewis Boyce and Joe Marchant were enough to seen them pick up a second win and move a point clear of their visitors as all four teams in the pool have identical records with two wins and two losses.
James Lang added both conversions and a penalty, with Marcus Smith tagging on another three-pointer. All of Benetton’s points came from the boot of Ian McKinley.
Worcester sit at the top of Pool Two on 13 points after they beat Pau 23-7. Josh Adams and Alafoti Faosiliva scored first-half tries after Ben Mowen had gone over early for Pau. Duncan Weir made sure of the victory with both conversions and three penalties.
Sale suffered their first defeat in the competition when they went down to a 17-14 pool Three defeat to Bordeaux-Begles. Luke James went over for a 12th-minute try for the Sharks but the visitors responded through a pair of Florian Dufour tries and held a 17-7 lead with half an hour remaining.
Rob Webber went over for Sale in the 56th minute and Jean-Luc Du Preez converted but they came up just short although they remain top of the pool, three points clear of Connacht.
Clermont Auvergne maintained their domination of Pool One with a 49-24 win over Dragons. Judicael Cancoriet and Apisai Naqalevu each went over for a pair of tries and Peter Betham, Fritz Lee and Charlie Cassange also breach the Welsh side’s defence as they made it four wins from four.
Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw converted all seven scores, while Elliot Dee, Aaron Wainwright and Rhodri Williams scored the Dragons’ tries.
Northampton’s clash with Timisoara Saracens was postponed due to poor weather. In Pool Four, Carlo Canna scored tries and added five conversions and a penalty for a personal haul of 23 points to lead Zebre to a 58-14 win over Enisei-STM.
In the late game, Bristol claimed a 13-3 win over La Rochelle in France.
The Bears led 6-3 at half-time thanks to two penalties from Callum Sheedy with captain Jordan Crane scoring the only try of the game early in the second half, which was converted.
Cape Town – The Sharks have released their new playing strip ahead of the 2019 Super Rugby tournament, which gets underway in February.
The Durban-based franchise released an image of their new kit via their Twitter page on Thursday.
While the traditional black and white colours have been retained for the home and away jerseys, respectively, a new addition sees the ‘Cell C’ logo on the jersey change to bright orange.
More significantly, the Sharks’ away jersey for 2019 will be dedicated to Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, who is expected to play his last Super Rugby season in Durban.
Mtawarira is the most-capped Shark in Super Rugby history and, in 2019, he is set to become the most capped South African Super Rugby player in history, needing just six games to overtake Adriaan Strauss’ record of 156 caps.
“Beast’s contribution to The Sharks cannot only be limited to the field of play, but also the role he’s played off it. He has been a role-model and mentor for numerous young props/players who have come through the system and who were able to learn so much from him, both as a player and human being,” said Sharks COO, Eduard Coetzee.
“We are delighted that we can honour him in our Super Rugby away jersey design.”
Beast added: “I am very humbled and consider it a massive honour to be celebrated by The Sharks with a jersey that honours me.
“It’s been a great privilege to represent this team for many years and I look forward to a big 2019 season to commemorate this special moment.”
The third jersey that the Sharks will wear is the Black Panther inspired jersey, which will be launched early 2019. This jersey is part of SA Rugby and Vodacom’s partnership with Marvel that will see all our SA teams in Superhero themed jerseys for all local derby matches played in 2019.
We are proud to announce the release of the official @CellC Sharks 2019 Vodacom Super Rugby home and away jersey designs.
Read more about the inspiration behind these designs here- https://t.co/a4R8UV6fRm @Beast_TM #BeTheMotivation#OurSharksForever pic.twitter.com/mvT2kmnjox
— The Sharks (@TheSharksZA) December 13, 2018
Here’s something to sink your teeth into. Introducing the new Cell C @TheSharksZA jersey for Vodacom #SuperRugby 2019. pic.twitter.com/Hk9P9PCwsO
Aaron Smith set a new All Blacks record in Dublin last month, becoming the most capped halfback when he made his 82nd test appearance against Ireland.
Each day this week, Stuff’s rugby writers will address a burning question ahead of what promises to be a hectic 2019. In the latest instalment, the below-par performances by Aaron Smith for the All Blacks this year come under scrutiny.
OPINION: It’s not as if Aaron Smith has excess timber around his midriff, or lacks energy at crucial moments.
Nothing like that; barring the odd eclectic hairstyle, the All Black halfback’s physical characteristics have changed little from previous seasons.
The same cannot be said for his performances. Honesty time. Overall rating for Smith in 2018: C.
It’s not a fail, but that’s not the point. Since he used his hard flat passes, a legacy of a powerful wrist action, and speed to the breakdowns to manoeuvre his way into the All Blacks more than six years ago he has usually been the undisputed king of No 9s in New Zealand. Probably on a global scale, too.
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This year, something changed. Smith wasn’t nearly as accurate in key parts of his game.
Kicking from the base of the rucks and scrums was below par, especially against England in London and Ireland in Dublin last month, and while his passes were still being spat out at top speed they didn’t always find the intended recipient.
During the Rugby Championship match against South Africa in Wellington, a test the All Blacks lost 36-34, Smith’s attention to detail slipped.
Yes, he scored a try but the sight of him spending precious seconds attempting to direct runners as the ball sat at the tail of the ruck would have been welcomed by the opposition.
Three weeks later the All Blacks destroyed the Springboks’ hopes of recording consecutive victories against them when they recovered from a 13-point deficit with 10 minutes remaining to win 32-30 in Pretoria.
However, Smith was overshadowed by Faf de Klerk at Loftus Versfeld, his South African counterpart again proving why he will be a key part of his team’s game plans at the World Cup in Japan next year.
Smith was replaced by TJ Perenara in the 70th minute as the All Blacks wound up for their remarkable sprint home, while de Klerk was substituted three minutes later, a decision coach Rassie Erasmus surely regretted with the benefit of hindsight.
Perenara was picked to start the next test, against the Wallabies in Yokohama, but didn’t do enough to force the selectors to eject Smith from his throne.
Neither man did himself any major favours in the following tests against England and Ireland. Smith started, replaced by Perenara around the three-quarter mark in both fixtures.
On a wet afternoon at Twickenham, Smith’s job was simple: Be clinical. He couldn’t lay claim to that during the 16-15 victory. More loose passes, the kicking was average.
In the final minutes, as Smith sat on the bench, Perenara almost blew it. He had a clearing kick was charged down by Courtney Lawes, resulting in what appeared to be the match-winning try by Sam Underhill.
The decision was overturned by the officials, Lawes deemed offside.
So it was Smith, in a record-breaking 82nd test for the All Blacks, who was confirmed to start a week later. It was another lacklustre display. He lacked authority, the edge was missing in the 16-9 loss at Aviva Stadium.
Roll on 2019. Smith, 30, may well return to the Highlanders as if he has dynamite in his veins and carry his Super Rugby form into the tests.
His experience means it’s highly unlikely that he will be discarded by the national selectors from the World Cup squad. The same could be said for Perenara. A dearth of No 9s possessing their exposure in the heat of international footy should ensure their passage to the World Cup is assured.
But Smith should take nothing for granted. He cannot be allowed to believe he is guaranteed a place in the World Cup squad to Japan.
That could be detrimental to the All Blacks’ aspirations of retaining the Webb Ellis Cup. Improvements are required.