NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 6- The national sevens rugby team staged one of the greatest comebacks in the International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens Series history to beat South Africa 22-17 in Wellington on Friday.,
Two breathtaking tries from Collins Injera and one from Allan Onyango helped Kenya who were down 17-5 at half time to secure a place in the main cup quarter finals where they will play Wales and top Pool A with seven points.
Benjamin Ayimba’s side were buoyed by the Westpac Stadium’s atmosphere and by captain Humphrey Kayange whose tackle on Bok forward Mpho Mbiyozo early in the second half turned the match in Kenya’s favour.
Three tries from Ryno Benjamin, Renfred Dezel and Gio Aplon put South Africa ahead going into the break while a try from scrum half Gibson Weru kept Kenya in touch.
From the restart, Kenya swept upfield after Mbiyozo lost control off the ball following Kayange’s monster tackle.
Kenya recycled the ball quickly from the ruck and spun the ball wide for Onyango to brush aside Aplon and score in the corner to make the score 17-10.
Benjamin Ayimba’s side continued to pile pressure on the Boks who were on the backfoot for most of the second half. Kayange chipped the ball down field and regathered, drawing a penalty in the process from the Boks who failed to roll away in the tackle.
Injera took the quick tap and dived over unopposed for the try which Lavin Asego converted to tie the game 17-17 with a couple of minutes remaining.
With chant’s of “Kenya, Kenya” ringing round the stadium, the Safari Sevens champions stormed into Bok territory with Ashioya at the sharp end of the spear with incisive runs.
Kenya once again found themselves camped in the shadow of the South African posts and with an overlap to the left. Weru passed the ball in that direction to Asego who sent Injera over for the match winner and to raise the roof off the arena.
For Ayimba, the victory was the perfect tonic after his team’s 19-14 loss to Scotland earlier in the day.
“Its been a very spirited fight, I had a very harsh word with the boys and they came out to show me how much they can give,” said a breathless Ayimba.
“I’m at a loss for words to be honest. They played their hearts out and they put on a very good show. I’m glad to beat South Africa today,” he added.
Kayange was equally upbeat after the win which was Kenya’s first in win over their African rivals in 19 encounters.
“It’s a big victory for us. There are one of the three teams we hadn’t beaten so its a milestone we have achieved for this tour and we hope to build it up from there,” said Kayange who scored a length of the field try in their loss against the Scots.
“At half time when we were down I told the players to go out there and play rugby the way we know it and not to try any fancy stuff,” he added.
Kenya got their Wellington campaign off to a flying start with a 21-14 win over Tonga before being made to rue careless mistakes that led to their agonizing defeat to Scotland in a match which saw Biko Adema limp off in the early stages.