Voice of Sport

Simiyu jerks Kenya into good closing in Vegas as ‘Blitzbokke’ maintain firm grip on Series

Only one loss and a damaging draw with Argentina for Kenya in Las Vegas as South Africa continue their roaring performance in the HSBC World Series -- this time, though, run close by an improved Fiji in the final


2017 Las Vegas Sevens (World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series):

Pool ‘C’:

Lost: New Zealand 24-7 Kenya

Drew: Argentina 14-14 Kenya

Won: Russia 10-12 Kenya

Challenge Trophy:

Quarter finals:

W: Kenya 21-19 Chile

W: France 7-14 Kenya

W: Kenya 21-14 Samoa

KENYA won the Challenge Trophy at the Las Vegas Sevens with what should be a very satisfying semi-final and final play. They beat France 14-7 in the semis and Samoa of the great coaching icon Gordon Tietjens 21-14 in the final.

It was, however, ironic that Kenya only lost only one match out of six in Las Vegas and that their undoing  from contesting for top glory was a drawn match 14-14 with Argentina in pool ‘C’ of the preliminaries after an earlier loss to New Zealand.  Victory over Russia in the last group match was futile in the quest for a place in the Main Cup quarter-finals.

Frustrated

A frustrated Innocent Simiyu then saw Kenya struggle to eliminate, of all teams, Chile, just 21-19 in the opening match of the Challenge Trophy knock-outs. Coach Simiyu lambasted “bad habits” of his men; lack of concentration and intensity and poor defence which he said crept into the team.

But he must have been pleased with how his boys reacted to his criticism after Chile because they were excellent against France and Samoa, teams which Kenya has by no means put a big gap between in the past seasons. Kenya also won the Challenge Trophy in the Wellington Sevens [New Zealand] in January.

Injera on roll

This time in Las Vegas against Samoa, Collins Injera and Andrew Amonde (twice) scotred with Sammy Oliech nailing all the conversion attempts. Samoa made a useful start with Tila Mealoi causing havoc in the midfield again. But it was the world’s top try scoring icon Injera in the halfback role who drew first blood by cruising through the Samoan defence for his HSBC Sevens Series try number 242.

Willy Ambaka drove 30 yards across field before Kenya’s 33-year-old captain Amonde barged through two tackles and came out the other side of the try line. Hugely impressive physical power game from the Kenyans and they were flying at the halfway point.

Outstanding

Samoa were doing some outstanding work at the breakdown courtesy of Joe Perez and Lafaele Vaa. Joe Perez had possession and sat it up for the in-support  Mealoi to score, before the Samoan star scored try number 40 of his career and leveled the scores with his conversion. 14 unanswered points all scored by that man Mealoi.

Then Amonde – and what a perfect time to score, had his second touchdown with less than a minute on the clock. Samoa did nothing to stop him thundering through and snatching victory for the Kenya.

Vancouver

The skipper Amonde summed up the Vegas showing: “It was bittersweet. We didn’t perform too well here but it’s good to get something. Big thanks to the fans, we know we have more and we can build on that for Vancouver [next round in Canada].”

Meanwhile South Africa secured their fourth tournament win of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2016-17 after beating Fiji 19-12 at the Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

Mistake

The victory gives the “Blitzbokke” a 24-point buffer at the top of the series standings, with Fiji in second place and England in third following their fifth place finish in Vegas. 

The final itself was a tense match-up as Olympic champions Fiji came into the match chasing their first tournament win of the series. Masivesi Dakuwaqa scored from close range early on in the match following a mistake from Ruhan Nel, but Blitzboks playmaker Cecil Afrika soon replied for the series leaders after latching onto a pass from Siviwe Soyizwapi.

Out of sight

Powerful forward Chris Dry added a try early on in the second half, before HSBC Player of the Final Rosko Specman scorched the turf to score an incredible individual try. Waisea Nacuqu struck back for Fiji but the game was out of sight.

The Blitzboks have finished as series runners-up for four consecutive years yet have had their best start ever to a world series with victories in Dubai, Sydney, Wellington and now Las Vegas. Their loss to England in the HSBC Cape Town Sevens back in December is the only blemish on what has been the perfect start to their 2016-17 campaign and head coach Neil Powell is pleased with the way his side are performing.

“We’re happy with how it’s been going the last few tournaments and the guys are believing in a system and working for each other,” he said. “They are showing a lot of pride in the jersey and the fact that they can play for their country. They showed a lot of composure in the final and managed to take control back in the second half.”

KENYA SEVENS (at Las Vegas):

  1. Bush MWALE – (Homeboyz)
  2. Frank WANYAMA – (Harlequins)
  3. Dan SIKUTA – (Kabras Sugar)
  4. Augustine ‘Gus’ LUGONZO – (Homeboyz)
  5. Billy ‘The Kid’ ODHIAMBO – (Mwamba)
  6. Samuel OLIECH – (Impala)
  7. Eden AGERO – (Harlequins)
  8. Andre AMONDE, captain – (Kenya Commercial Bank)
  9. Nelson OYOO – (Nakuru)
  10. Leonard MUGAISI – (Homeboyz)
  11. Collins INJERA – (Mwamba)
  12. Willy AMBAKA – (Harlequins)
  13. Oscar AYODI – (Homeboyz)

Coach: Innocent SIMIYU – (Kenya)

-Additional reporting by Agencies