The Tackling Cancer Tigers had to endure a very tough draw in Nairobi this weekend as they were pitted against eventual Cup champions Samoa in their first game. Tigers lost 44-0. Samoa were on fire, completely denying the ball to their opponents, and clinically finishing all their opportunities. "We looked good when we got the ball" said coach James Walker, "but unfortunately we ended up playing defense for more than 10 minutes, and against a team like that it always going to be tough."
After that grueling encounter the Tigers were faced with another IRB team Spain and even though the end result was 33-0 to the Europeans, there were some glimpses of form starting to show. "We were very disappointed with that result, and definitely feel the game was much closer than the scoreboard showed. I just told the boys to hang in there and focus on getting our defensive pattern watertight. These were two fully professional teams that had been training together for months and some perspective was needed." said Walker. "Let's focus on D and the rest will take care of itself"
The last game of the day was against the Goshawks, which is the Zimbabwe development side. Finally the Tigers, unleashed rookies Nick Brandenstein and Mike Shea onto the park. The pair showed some bite and the defense stepped up. As Walker predicted the offense came with the Tigers smashing their opponents 52-0 for a much need moral boost.
"Day two I sensed a much different mood in the camp from the minute we arrived at the pool for the blowout session. I had challenged the boys to win the next three games in a row. The focus and intensity to be looked there from the start." claimed Coach Walker. First up in the bowl quarters came the Tanzanian national team. The Tigers, still utilizing the deep bench of young rookies were in no mood for games picking the Africans apart with ease 49-0.
Then things got decidedly tougher in the semi finals, where the next opponent was Kenyan club champs Mwamba. Mwamba who themselves had narrowly lost to New Zealand club champs Auckland Vikings, and the Emerging Springboks on the last play of that game also boasted 6 Kenyan internationals in their lineup. "We knew that the crowd would be behind the home team all the way, but we felt confident in our game plan. The Kenyans love to throw the ball around, so we decided to tighten things up" said Walker. Defense and intensity were immense, as the Tigers silenced the home crowd of 20 000 and smashed the club champs 28-7.
Bristol University from the UK, who in 16 years had never finished out of the Cup rounds, awaited Tigers in the Bowl Final. The Tigers were again expected by many to be heavy underdogs, and that became even more so when Bristol drafted in Kenyan legend Humphrey Kayangi right before the game. "The Bristol coach approached me with the the change which was approved by the tournament officials. I wasn't necessarily overly charmed by the move but told him my boys wanted to take the best shot that Bristol could deliver. If anything it just fired us up even more" said Walker. Fired up indeed, as the Tiger took the lead and never looked back. A late try to the British gave the scoreline a respectable 17-14 finish to a hugely entertaining match.
"I'm so proud of the character that the boys displayed to bounce back from the heavy defeats of day one. We came here to earn respect for American Rugby and blood some new talent, I definitely feel that we accomplished that mission. It would be unfair to single out any one player as they all played massive roles, but I do wish to congratulate captain Riaan Hamilton who at 34 showed fantastic leadership and was unstoppable on the pitch."
The Tigers will next be touring Argentina in January.
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