Northern Suburbs is one of the teams that were scheduled to contest for a Kenya Cup promotion in early March after their exploits in their debut season saw them finish in the top six after the conclusion of the regular league games.
By achieving this fate with only their first time of asking, they go down into the history books as one of the three teams in the country to do so after Menengai Oilers in the 2017/2018 season. Suburbs first season in the Championship saw them grab eight wins to finish fifth with 34 points.
Speaking to the Scrummage, Suburbs assistant captain Eugene Omondi is a happy man after his peers sailed through the championship storm and achieved the targets they’d set at the very start of the season.
“It was a good learning experience for the youthful team considering it was our first season,” Omondi told Scrummage.
“ There were several results that didn’t go our way but we embraced the outcomes as an opportunity to correct our errors and improve on our strengths.”
Things were not all good for the boys in blue. Their opening fixtures were tough. Just from nationwide, Suburbs opening fixture was against a wounded Strathmore Leos side who had just been relegated from Kenya Cup. Strathmore handed them a rude welcome to competitive rugby by hammering them 37-7 in a match held at the soggy Strathmore University rugby grounds. Omondi labels their opening fixture to be the hardest game they played the entire season.
“The hardest game was the opening fixture of the season against Strathmore. Poor conditions on the field and Strathmore’s experience exposed our weaknesses which kept us on the back foot for the better part of the game and we had to work really hard to get hold of the match,” the fleet-footed outside centre said.
Lost a couple
When the season was heading for the Christmas break, the Simon Jawchire charges were sitting at position five but as the season resumed in January, things went south for them. They lost a couple of games before finding their foot again later in the season. One of the surprises they fronted on the form was a 18-10 upset of Mean Machine who were pre-match favourites. They then made the table-toppers Strathmore dig deep to see them off 22-0. Their turn around of form as said by Omondi was a result of an increase in the intensity of their training sessions driven by their ambition to feature in the top six at the end of the regular season.
“Halfway through the season we were well placed in the playoff spot but a couple of losses and poor results saw us drop out of the playoff bracket. As a team, we had to recollect ourselves and focused on achieving the set targets. We had to increase intensity in our training which helped raise our work rate levels that enabled us to pick some decent wins which ultimately made us grab a playoff spot”
Most teams that are promoted to Championship or Kenya Cup mostly don’t find the going easier. They are mostly embedded in a relegation dogfight at the tail end of the season. Most of them only target to stay afloat in order to avoid dropping back to the lower tier. The dream of securing Kenya Cup promotion in just one season is barely at the back of their minds. But not for Northern Suburbs Cubs.
“Being our debut season, we wanted to finish in the playoff bracket so as to have an opportunity to challenge for Kenya Cup promotion. I’m glad we were able to achieve our set target, from there on it is an open field to try and contest for promotion,” the Media Science graduate from Moi University added.
The 2019 Nationwide Champions stamped their mark as no pushovers during last year’s national 7s circuit where they won some matches against some of the ‘big guns’. The feat saw them earn automatic qualification for poolings of this year’s 7s circuit. Omondi claims this was their major motivating factor as they wanted to replicate that performance in the longer version of the game.
“The team’s performance in the just-ended local 7s circuit where we managed to secure automatic qualification for poolings of this year’s event was a good motivating factor. We really wanted to replicate our 7s performance during the 15s season,” Omondi concluded.
Northern Suburbs were scheduled to square it out with USIU in the Championship pre-quarters with the winner booking a date with the dreaded Strathmore Leos for a chance of securing Kenya Cup promotion. The games were put on hold by the Kenya Rugby Union due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the world.
Watch Scrummage TV Show