Main Cup eludes Kenya once again in Vancouver

Kenya's Collins Injera carries the ball during the USA Sevens Rugby tournament at Sam Boyd ...
(FILE)Kenya's Collins Injera carries the ball during the USA Sevens Rugby tournament at Sam Boyd Stadium on March 5, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Isaac Brekken/Getty Images/AFP Isaac Brekken / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Increasingly familiar shortcomings haunted the Kenya national sevens rugby team Shujaa as they crashed out of the contention of Main Cup for the fourth time this season in the HSBC World Rugby sevens series in Vancouver, Canada.

Shujaa  lost their Group A opener against England 28 – 14 before slumping to a 15 – 5 defeat in the hands of Series leaders South Africa in their second match the dawn of Sunday.

A 26 – 19 win over Chile in their final group game only sent Kenya to book a date with Scotland later at 8.30pm (+3GMT) on Sunday in the Challenge Trophy quarter final.

Kenya’s two losses to England, third on the series leaderboard, and South Africa the current series leaders compounded their chances of reaching the Main Cup final as they were relegated to the Challenge Trophy.

The defeats seemed to have deflated Shujaa as they uncharacteristically trailed the South Americans 19 – 7 at the interval with Collins Injera’s consolation try the only gloss in the first half implosion.

Head Coach Innocent Simiyu gave his charges a stern message at the break and the pep talk seemed to spark life into the lethargic team that struggled to settle in the game’s first seven minutes.

Eden Agero who orchestrated Kenya’s attack in the opening two games shimmied his way past three Chilean defenders to reduce the point gap to 5 as he scored between the uprights and added the extras.

The momentum seems to have shifted in Kenya’s favor as Samuel Oliech took a quick penalty after an infringement by the Chileans to snatch the lead by 21 – 19 darting over the whitewash.

Frank Wanyama put the match beyond reach recovering a lose ball to score an unconventional try as he somersaulted while touching down to hand Kenya the 26 – 19 victory. Oliech’s resultant conversion rebounded on the uprights.

Earlier, Kenya narrowly lost 15 – 5 to South Africa in their second group game. The Blitzboks have been in rampant form in the season so far with 4 main cup victories and they almost drew first blood after their captain Phillip Snyman ripped the ball from Kenya’s William Ambaka to set up an attacking platform that was bungled by Siviwe Soyizwapi who knocked on the ball with try line begging.

South Africa’s dangerman Rosko Specman finally broke the deadlock after 3 minutes side stepping his way past the Kenyan defense to score their first try in the corner flag.

Cecil Afrika missed the resultant conversion as Kenya reflected on being caught flatfooted by the diminutive speedster and struggled to respond.

The South Africans spread the ball wide soon after and went through 4 phases of play to stretch their lead with Ruhan Nel adding the Blitboks second try. Afrika missed to add the extras.

Kenya had the chance to reduce the deficit but Nelson Oyoo was tackled into touch as Innocent Simiyu’s charges trailed 10 – 0 at the break.  Kenya resumed the second half with renewed vigor and Oyoo once again almost put Shujaa on the scoreboard but he was tackled short of the tryline and subsequently penalized for failing to release the ball in the tackle.

Kenya changed tact and adopted a more physical approach but the South African defense stood firm. The Blitzboks were penalized for an infringement and Kenya finally halved the deficit after Bush Mwale powered through South Africa’s captain Phillip Snyman to score.

Eden Agero’s conversion missed its target as it ricocheted on the uprights. South Africa showed their pedigree with a patient build up to put the final nail on the coffin as Chris Dry combined well with Specman for a 15 – 5 win.

Kenya lost 28 – 14 to England in their Group A opener at the Vancouver Sevens as indiscipline bungled their chances of edging their English opponents in the World Sevens series in almost four seasons.

After clinching the Challenge trophy and eight points at the Las Vegas sevens in the United States five days ago, Kenya continued their North American tour in Canada at the British Columbia Place Stadium with a tough pool A opener against England who lie third in the world series standings.

The English dominated possession right from the kick off, exchanging passes for about three minutes as the Kenyans stood firm, absorbing the relentless waves of attacks.

Kenya finally won possession from the turnover after England were penalized for failing to release the ball in the tackle and Shujaa struck first after a well timed pass by Eden Agero to William Ambaka who scythed through the English defense to score between the uprights for a 7 – 0 advantage; Agero adding the extra 2 points with a conversion.

Kenya almost added more points but William Ambaka who showed a clean pair of heels failed to beat the last defender and was tackled from the try line by England’s sweeper Tom Mitchell.

The English drew level on the counter as Phil Burgess ran the length of the pitch with Bush Mwale struggling to keep up and the two sides were drawn level 7 – 7 at the interval.

Kenya Sevens Head Coach Innocent Simiyu rung in the changes with Frank Wanyama and Sammy Oliech adding fresh legs into the Shujaa set up.

The impact was instantaneous as Oliech opted to use the short side of a Kenyan ruck to dash over 50 meters fending off the cross covering defender to restore Kenya’s lead in the second half.  Eden Agero made it 14 – 7 with the conversion from a difficult angle.

Soon after, England’s Dan Billy was certain of five points but Nelson Oyoo managed to tackle him meters from the try line.

Oyoo’s tackle was all for naught as England were awarded a penalty try which amounts to 7 points after William Ambaka inadvertently interfered with the ball and the two sides were once again drawn level.

Ambaka was subsequently sent off for 3 minutes as Kenya struggled to defend with a man down.

England sensed blood after Collins Injera was penalized for a high tackle and they capitalized on the numerical advantage to snatch the lead as Dan Norton who is chasing Injera in the list of all time try scorers scored England’s 3rd try for a 21 – 14 lead after it was successfully converted.

Dan Bibby scored England’s fourth try soon after when James Rodwell did most of the work and it seemed to take the wind off Kenya’s sails as the resultant conversion consolidated England’s lead to seal the 28 – 14.

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Story By Bernard Ndong
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