NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 6 – Skipper Andrew Amonde put in a shift scoring the winning try as Kenya Sevens won the Challenge Trophy in the fifth leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series in Las Vegas, USA with a 21-14 win over Samoa at the Sam Boyd Stadium early Monday morning.
This was the second time Kenya was winning the Challenge trophy having also picked the diadem in Wellington, New Zealand in January.
Samoa, coached by New Zealand legendary coach Sir Gordon Tietjens, at one time linked with the Kenya 7s job had fought back from 14-0 down to tie in the second half, but Amonde’s moment of magic with a minute left on the clock meant Kenya won to pick eight points from the leg.
“We are very happy to win here today and it is such a big win for us as we build up for Vancouver. This victory will help set us up to do better and we are pleased. For the fans who came out here in large numbers, this is a small token of appreciation for them for supporting us,” Amonde said after the match.
Kenya usually enjoys massive support in Las Vegas, and it was no different over the two days as the stadium was painted in red, black and white, the eighth man coming all out to give the home boys a push.
It was an improved performance from Innocent ‘Namcos’ Simiyu’s side having worked hard to reduce on the errors that were loudly visible in the last two legs in New Zealand and Australia.
Shujaa only lost one match in Vegas, the opening 24-7 defeat to New Zealand in the first group match. They drew 14-14 with Argentina and despite a 12-10 win over Russia in the final group match, it was never enough to carry them into the main cup quarters as Argentina had a better point aggregate.
Into the Challenge Trophy quarters, Shujaa survived a late scare before winning 21-19 against Chile and kept the momentum high with a 14-7 win over France in the semi finals.
Into the finale Kenya started positively and it was that man Collins Injera who got the party started. From a quickly taken set piece, Injera picked out some small space between the Samoan defense, put on the afterburners to show his trademark pace and power between the sticks.
Sammy Oliech put in the extras as Kenya went 7-0 up.
Skipper Amonde who had put in the hard work throughout got the second try after a charge down into the Samoan 22 with Oscar Ayodi offloading for the skipper to touch down. Oliech’s conversion was good as Kenya went convincingly and deservedly 14-0 up.
A late surge by the Samoans threatened to taint the positive start which had seen Kenya restrain their opponents into their own half and once Injera won back possession after the buzzer, he kicked out as Kenya went to the breather chests up.
The Samoans though came back stronger after the break and Tila Mealoi scored and converted two quick tries as Tietjens’ charges came right back into the party.
Mealoi dotted down the first between the posts after Bush Mwale had lost the ball on the breakdown, the Samoans picking up and surging upfield. Willy Ambaka’s last ditch effort at tackling Mealoi was futile as he took a stumble on Danny Kayes’ feet.
The Samoan speedstar was fortunate with the second try, a small kick and chase seeing the ball take an awkward bounce to avoid Injera and Mealoi picking up for a touchdown under the posts.
Kenya’s never say die attitude put them across the line, Amonde showing his leadership by leading from the front. The captain picked the ball from a quickly taken set piece, powered through three tackles before letting the ball kiss the grass under the posts and Oliech finished off with a conversion.
From the restart, Kenya won back possession and at the buzzer, Dan Sikuta kicked the ball out for Kenya’s second piece of silverware this season.
Shujaa now move to 35 points ahead of the sixth leg to be played in Vancouver Canada next weekend.