NAIROBI, October 4 – Former national Sevens head coach, Mike Friday returned to haunt Kenya as his invitational side Samurai beat Shujaa 20-19 in a razor edge Main Cup final to be crowned 2015 Safari Sevens champions.
Kenya’s second team Morans won the Bowl consolation after knocking out Rugby World Sevens Series core side, Portugal 26-10 while England Saxons were 24-19 winners over Spain to claim Plate honours.
South African side, Western Province beat Zimbabwe 29-12 to finish third.
Head coach, Benjamin Ayimba, who was using the tournament to select his final squad for the 2016 African Olympics qualifiers, was impressed with his new charges, revealing some of the seasoned players who were sidelined with injuries will be replaced.
“There is nothing to change just little improvement to ensure the boys combine well as we prepare for the Olympics qualifiers. The boys performed brilliantly, way beyond my expectations.
“You have seen younger guys coming out and playing so well and that was so exiting. As a coach, I’m so happy that I’m working with guys who are switched on.
“The young guys proved themselves and unfortunately they will replace some of the senior players who are injured,” Ayimba, who was on his first assignment since re-appointment, underscored.
Friday, who coached Kenya to the record-setting 2013 World Sevens Series season where they finished fifth, hailed the Kenyan trio of Oscar Ouma, Felix Ayange, Cyprian Kuto and Sammy Oliech who were inspirational.
“It was fantastic play and I’m very proud of the boys. Kenya can be proud of their players, you saw the three Kenyans in my team emptying the tank for this tournament.
“I think it’s all about the players and what we have seen here is that Kenya rugby is in a good place if they enhance their talent and support their players.
“They can go ahead and win the Olympics qualifiers but from Samurai perspective we are so happy to win the tournament,” Friday, who is the head coach of USA and a cult hero in these shores, described.
In the tense final, Samurai grounded three tries through Luke Crocker who found the opener after receiving the ball from kick-off.
Shujaa failed to maximize on Samurai who were down one man after Glen Rolls was sent to the sin bin with Biko Adema wasting a glorious chance that could have levelled matters.
Samurai pressed hard to see Felix Ayange extend the lead but Augustine Lugonzo fed skipper, Andrew Amonde who pulled one back and Adema converted.
Lugonzo then scored his own before Willy Ambaka, setting up Frank Wanyama who went over for the converted try, sent Shujaa 19-10 ahead at the breather.
The second half saw Samurai turn tables after Wanyama limped out before things went worse for Shujaa when Ambaka was sent to the sin bin for tackling his opponent in the air.
Impala RFC’s Oliech reduced the deficit to four points before Ouma sealed the win when he went over on the flank.
In quarters, Shujaa braved a spirited onslaught to edge out stubborn Newcastle Wailers 19-5, a side that featured Kenyan players, Michael Agevi, Horace Otieno and Allan Omuka.
Fly-half, Adema grounded his first try of the tournament to hand Shujaa the opener after Ambaka picked the ball from the rack to set the Nondescript kicker before converting for a 7-0 lead.
The Wailers pilled pressure on the hosts with Morris Charles reducing the deficit to two points after his conversion went wide.
Ambaka ensured his side headed to the breather with the lead when he doubled the scores from a solo effort after picking the ball from scum to turn over at the left corner for Lugonzo to convert.
The hosts grounded one try in the second-half through Nondescript winger, Oscar Dennis, but Adema missed the conversion for Shujaa to march on to the semis.
Against Zimbabwe in the last eight, Shujaa exploited the Sables defence to humble them 27-0 after scoring four tries through Wanyama and Kennedy Moseti who was fed by Amonde as Adema missed one conversion for a 12-0 lead at the interval.
Ambaka intercepted Zimbabwean pass to burst from the middle to extend the lead before Alvin Otieno found the winner.
It was an easy ride for Morans in the Bowl competition having edged out Zambia 31-0 in the quarters after grounding five tries.
Skipper Eden Agero opened the account after Ahmed Shaban picked the ball from the scrum before he went over behind the post for 12-0 lead at the interval.
David Kivuti lit up the second half after Zambia defence was exposed to see the Nakuru RFC lock sprint from the left before the second Kenyan side spread the passes wide for Robert Aringo and Collins Shikholi to extend the scores.
The semi-finals was a good warm up for Morans ahead of the 2016 Africa Olympics qualifiers after they humiliated Namibia 33-10 with Homeboyz winger, Bush Mwale touching down twice.
Kivuti and Tony Onyango were instrumental to help Morans take a 28-0 lead at the break.
Namibia returned stronger to pull two tries through Tunya Ametunya and Gregory Stein but Agero intercepted a Namibia pass to kick before following it up to touch the whitewash and send Moran to the finals.
In the finals, Morans grounded four tries with Mwale and Samuel Motari and Tony Onyango touching down each as Agero converted two for a 19-0 half-time lead.
Kivuti gave Moran its only try on resumption with a brilliant score when he powered through from the left.
Portugal got two consolation unconverted tries through No Guedes and Uel Pereira.