NAIROBI, February 7 – An improved Kenya Sevens maintained her eighth spot in the HSBC Sevens World Series standings after reaching the Plate final in Sydney where they fell 24-0 to Argentina on Sunday.
Following their impressive run in Australia where they collected 12 points, Shujaa are drawn in a relatively fair Pool A for the fifth round at Las Vegas where they will face Sydney Cup winners, New Zealand, Portugal and new comers Russia on the weekend of March 4-6 in USA.
After starting Day two on a losing note where they went down 12-28 to Fiji in the Cup quarter-finals, the Benjamin Ayimba side upped their game but could not break through Argentina in the Plate decider.
The Puma’s were too hot to handle in a match where the Kenyans failed to ground a try against a side that eliminated them in the semi-finals at the same competition in Wellington last weekend.
Argentina opened the scoring after Nicolas Menendez picked himself up off the floor to run over in the corner.
The game was dominated with plenty of errors from both sides in the final minutes of the half, but Kenya were not too worried being a single score down.
Shujaa took their mistakes a notch higher on resumption to grant Argentina a penalty try after Nelson Oyoo broght down Franco Sabato in their footrace to the line.
Sabato did not have to wait long to get his own try as the Pumas took advantage of Kenya being a man down with Oyoo in the sin-bin.
Kenyan fans in Sydney certainly played their part in creating the electric atmosphere at the first HSBC Sydney Sevens but that could not stop Argentina finish off on a high.
To reach the Plate final, Ayimba charges recovered from three tries down to edge out former Kenya 7s coach, Mike Friday’s USA 24-21.
The opening half was one-way traffic with Carlin Isles setting the tone for the Americans before completing his double in a space of two minutes.
The former sprinter showed he is more than just the fastest man in world rugby with some good player and thanks to his great intensity, Ben Pinkleman found the try line to complete the first half rout.
Kenya returned a more organised side to pin down USA who dropped the intensity levels to see Shujaa came out to play to the delight of their vocal fans.
First Oscar Ayodi crossed for his seventh try of the weekend before skipper, Andrew Amonde, Billy Odhiambo and Bush Mwale dotted down to complete the comeback of the weekend.
“Most of the first half we didn’t have the ball, when we got it in the second half we were able to execute what we wanted to do. We worked very hard,” Amonde stated.
-Fiji too hot to handle-
With both sides having the back of their vocal fans, the defending World Series champions began on a high with Savenaca Rawaca touching down twice in a tie where Isake Katonibau grounded the opening try.
It took Kenya until the fifth minute to actually make a pass, such was Fiji’s dominance and it could have been worse for the Africans, had Semi Kunatane not lost the ball as he stretched to score with time up.
Ayimba boys retuned with an improved display but the damage had been done in the first half.
Ayodi grabbed a double for Kenya but tries from Rawaca and Viliame Mata set up a mouth-watering semi-final between Fiji and New Zealand.
New Zealand, who lifted the Main Cup in Wellington, beat hosts Australia 27-24 to win the Cup and sit third on 69 points same as leaders Fiji and second placed South Africa.
Fiji finished third after beating South Africa 26-12, Argentina bagged Plate, Canada stunned Samoa 17-12 to grab Bowl while Wales were Shield winners courtesy of their 26-19 victory over Russia.