Injera does it! All rise for new try-scoring record holder
Collins Injera clearly loves Twickenham. He scored his first series try there, played his 50th tournament there, scored his 200th series try there last year and he has now become the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series all-time leading try scorer with 231 at the spiritual home of English rugby on Saturday.
Just like against Scotland in the second Pool C game, Injera made history with a little help from big brother and veteran Humphrey Kayange incidentally eighth on the all-time list himself in no mean achievement, who made it a family affair by giving him the ball in the in-goal area for the record-breaking score.
It only served to add to the romance of the groundbreaking feat and what a better way to celebrate, after Injera took off his shirt, careful not to rip it out owing to its sentimental value to his family and indeed the sport before he sprinted to the stands to hug his parents and give them the jersey.
Amid the bedlam of noise inside the iconic cathedral of the game in the nation that invented the sport, Argentina coach Santiago Gomez Cora who started the day as the record scorer was relegated to a footnote in history as he paved way for the Kenya 7s vice-captain who has many seasons left to get out of sight.
“It is an amazing feeling. Rugby sevens has always been special to me,” said Injera. “I have played this game since high school. When I started out I wanted to go for the record and now that I have done it, it’s a huge thing for me.
“Getting the final pass from my brother, the person I started out playing this game with is a huge honour for me. He mentored me a lot when growing up, telling me what to do and what not to do when playing, so to finally do it in Twickenham is very very special for me.
“I have been chasing the dream for a while and it’s finally been realised. It’s special for me and for my family, they have been there for life supporting this team through and through,” the delighted sevens super star who became arguably the only other Kenyan to hold a world record outside athletics reacted to his pioneering achievement.
Needing to win the last preliminary clash by a huge score to make the London 7s Main Cup quarters, the final result that spelt defeat for Kenya of 29-12 mattered little as Injera hogged all the limelight as Shujaa dropped to the Bowl.
France picked up where they left off with Virimi Vakatawa and then Arthur Retiere to take an unassailable 29-0 advantage at the start of the second half as the wait for Injera and indeed Kenya looked set to be agonisingly prolonged to next season.
But back came Shujaa who as if on cue, mounted a late rally with captain Andrew Amonde touching down before Kayange helped his brother ground his landmark five-pointer to stand unchallenged at the top of the all-time list.
After kneeling down and bowing his head to the turf for what was a short prayer, Injera melted the hearts when he raced to the stands to hand his father his prized number 11 jersey in another act that will linger long in the memory after his infamous television camera lens autograph to toast his 200th five-pointer at the same stadium last season.
Coming to London three short of the previous record and another to assume solo command of the record-scorers list, Injera’s parents were flown to the British capital and the faith paid off, with World Rugby’s Sevens official Twitter feed posting the above emotional photo with the simple but telling caption, ‘A very proud father!
The match outcome proved academic the moment Injera grounded the ball for the bells of rugby sevens history to toll in his honour but it meant Shujaa failed to reach the Main Cup quarters for only the third time in the expanded 10-leg 2015/16 season that witnessed the return of Benjamin Ayimba to the helm to salvage what was sinking ship in the Olympics year.
All eyes were Injera to see whether he would break the record after equalling Cora’s standard with a brace in their 12-24 defeat to Scotland in the second pool game but it was Pierre Gilles Lakafia who sprinted down the touchline and round under the posts for the first try.
The first half was all France with Steeve Barry and then Damien Cler giving them a commanding 19-0 lead at the break with the three points earned so far in their opening victory over Portugal at London 7s edging Ayimba’s side to 98, one shy of their record haul of 2012/13 season under Briton Mike Friday.
Shujaa may have looked out of their stride in London thus far after the high of a first Main Cup victory at the eighth round in Singapore last month but the party will not stop no matter what happens during Sunday’s Day 2 at Twickenham as the records continue tumbling for the twice Rugby Sevens World Cup semi-finalists.
For the hero of the hour Injera, he can now focus on sharing the limelight with his revered running compatriots at the Rio Olympics Games in August as he aims on extending his record in the global sevens circuit to heights that could keep it out of reach for any other mortal for generations.
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