James Magayi @magayijim
Gallant Kenya Sevens Rugby team registered a fifth Cup quarter-final appearance in the current HSBC World Rugby Series by walloping underdogs Spain and France to qualify as Group C runners up in Vancouver, Canada on Saturday night.
Having trounced France 14-7 in the opening group tie, Kenya opened the floodgates against minnows Spain, beating the European team 43-0 to confirm their last-eight appearance for the fifth time in six legs played this season.
The stumble in Cape Town, South Africa during the second stop remains the only blip in Innocent Simiyu’s second year as Kenya Sevens head coach. The team had previously made the cut in Dubai, Sydney, Hamilton and Las Vegas.
In the final group tie against Fiji, Kenya got off to a fine start as the sprightly try machine Collins Injera grounded his 250th under the sticks after a fine set-up by new boy Arthur Owira. Injera had put Owira through on goal but a fast chasing Fijian ran down the rookie barely 10 metres to the try line. Owira, however, retained a presence of mind to tee up Injera who proceeded to break the deadlock.
Fiji responded almost immediately, pouncing on the restart to punish a complacent Kenya. Shujaa committed another grave error moments later as under pressure Agero’s high and mistimed pass to Billy Odhiambo fell into the wrong hands and Fiji capitalised to steal a 12-7 half-time lead.
Eden Agero atoned for his first-half mistake by propped Kenya ahead early in the second half with an easy touchdown. Injera, who was very influential in the game, stole the ball from a rare Fiji spill before putting Agero through who touched down under the sticks then scored the resultant conversion.
With a place in the quarter-finals already secured, Kenya put down their guard and Fiji utilised their immense experience to land two tries. A late Jeffrey Oluoch try was insufficient for Kenya to catch up but narrowed the gap to just three as Fiji ran away 24-21 winners.
Against group underdogs Spain, six different players scored tries with the industrious William Ambaka grabbing a brace as the days’ kickers Agero and Sammy Oliech impressed too with conversions.