Hockey: Novices Oranje Leonas lead promotion race
Re-branded Africa champions need one win to seal a record 22nd league title.
Kenya Hockey Union Premier League champions Butali Warriors and Blazers are on course to retaining their titles.
Butali beat Western Jaguars 3-2 while Blazers, formerly Telkom, edged out Lakers 2-1 to maintain their unbeaten run in the men and women's title races respectively.
The sugar Miller’s, who lead the standings with 39 points from 15 matches, need one victory to extend their reign at the helm of men's hockey.
Wazalendo, who are Butali's closest challengers, have 30 points and must win their remaining three ties and also hope the champions lose their remaining three by higher margins.
Butali coach Dennis Owoka said their focus is now on the next game against Wazalendo.
“We have had a good but our work is not done yet and we have now focused on our next game which to us is like a final because if we win, we will retain our title,” Owoka said.
Against Jaguars, Butali had a good start taking a 3-0 lead by the 35th minute. They, however, survived a late scare as Jaguars threatened to restore parity in the fourth quarter.
Veteran Zack Aura put Butali ahead in the 16th minute with former Jaguars and Kenya Police Striker Amos Barkibir beating goalkeeper Nayanga four minutes to the break to give Butali a 2-0 lead.
George Mutira they outsmarted the Jaguars defence before hitting the ball past Nayanga to make it 3-0 for the sugar millers in the 35th minute.
Even so, Jaguars refused to let Butali have it their way as they intensified their hunt for goals.
Their efforts paid off just before the break of the third quarter as Allan Malit pulled one back.
Butali strikers pushed for more goals in the fourth quarter but the Jaguars defence would not let them through.
Emmanuel Waswa made it two for Jaguars through a penalty stroke in the 52nd minute following an infringement in the circle.
Jaguars then battled to salvage a point from the clash but their efforts were thwarted by an unrelenting Butali defence keen to win their second successive trophy.
In the women’s title hunt, holders Blazers rallied from behind to beat newcomers Lakers. Two goals in each half from evergreen Jackline Mwangi and Barbara Simiyu secured Blazers ninth win of the season.
Blazers have 29 points from 11 matches and have one hand on this season's gong. Mariam Nyakona had given Lakers the lead in the 10th minute.
Blazers Jos Openda, who returned from retirement to help the club after long-term sponsors Telkom Kenya withdrew their sponsorship, said his charges were determined to weather the storm.
“The girls have vowed not to let the financial crisis dampen their spirits and it was evident in how they played because we dominated the game despite not scoring more goals," said Openda.
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