NAIROBI, November 29 – Kenya has secured six points in the first leg of the International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens series after mounting a stunning second half comeback to beat Argentina 26-24 to make the Plate final on Saturday.
Kenya was trailing 19-7 at halftime in the semifinal but Collins Injera and Victor Oduor scored a brace each to send Kenya into the plate final and discard memories of their narrow loss to New Zealand in the main cup quarter final.
Argentina were quick off the blocks scoring three tries in the first half through Francisco Merello, Martin Bustos Moyano and Gonzalo Camacho.
Injera scored late in the first half to keep Kenya in the match after a telling run from Gibson Weru who released the Mwamba flyer to score.
A tactical masterstroke from Ayimba made Kenya a totally different outfit in the second period as he introduced Horace Otieno and Naftali Obondo into the fray.
A sustained period of pressure on the Argentinean line led to Injera bursting through two tackles and scoring his seventh try of the tournament putting Kenya in the lead 21-14.
Kenya were awarded a penalty soon after but made a hash out of it from the resultant lineout after Lavin Asego lost the ball in contact.
The Puma’s kicked the ball down field with Puma forward Dino Tomas outsprinting Bondo to collect the loose ball and touch down in the corner to make the score 24-21 to the South Americans.
Kenya’s never say attitude and rabid support from the terraces of the Sevens stadium buoyed the Safari Sevens champions who spread the ball back and forth across the pitch with the break through coming from Oduor again who ran over a Puma to dive over for the winning try.
Earlier, Kenya narrowly lost to defending series champions New Zealand 21-17.
Kenya led 12-7 at half time through tries from captain Humphrey Khayange and Weru.
Tim Mikkelson spearheaded the Kiwi fightback in the second half with a runaway try from Injera raising Kenya’s hopes of producing a historic upset.
Asego broke two tackles before releasing to Wilson K’opondo who offloaded in the tackle to Khayange who came storming on his inside shoulder and fended off a covering Kiwi defender to score under the posts.
Kenya’s strong defence for a while strangled the much vaunted New Zealand attack for a sustained period before Kenya regained possession and toyed with the All Blacks in their own half before a break from Injera down the left wing sent Weru in for his team’s second try.
K’opondo’s failure to hold on to the ball in the tackle led to the Kiwi’s first try through Solomon King.
Mikkelson right after the interval to make the score 14-12 to New Zealand before Injera pounced on a stray New Zealand pass to cruise half the pitch unopposed to score in the corner for a 17-12 lead.
But Mikkelson broke Kenyan hearts again to score gain to send a relived New Zealand in the main semis.
Main Cup quarter finals: New Zealand 21 Kenya 17, England 15 Argentina 5, Samoa 7 Fiji 12, South Africa 19 Australia 0; Semi-final: New Zealand/England, Fiji/South Africa
Plate semi-finals: Kenya 26 Argentina 24, Samoa 17 Australia 14;
Bowl quarter finals: Wales 26 Arabian Gulf 7, Portugal 19 Georgia 7, France 22 USA 12, Scotland 5 Zimbabwe 19; Semi-final: Wales 0 Portugal 24, France 17 Zimbabwe 12; Final: Portugal/France
Shield semi-final: Arabian Gulf 22 Georgia 12, USA 17 Scotland 14;