Rugby: Kenya’s World Cup dreams go up in smoke

Kenya Simba's Captain Davis Chenge (with ball) is tackled by Fortunate Chipendo of Zimbabwe Saples during Africa Gold Cup cum 2019 world cup qualifier at RFUEA Stadium Grounds on Saturday, Kenya won 45-36 against Zimbabwe. June 30, 2018. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]
Kopondo proud of Simbas’ performance despite Hong Kong defeat.

Kenya Simbas captain Wilson Kopondo is proud of the national 15s rugby team’s performance despite their 2019 Rugby World Cup dreams going up in smoke in Marseille, France on Saturday.

Though disappointed after they threw away a 12-7 halftime lead to lose 42-27 to Hong Kong, their second heavy defeat of the Rugby World Cup Repachage tournament following a 65-19 humiliation to leaders Canada, Kopondo found plenty of positives from their outing.

The winner of the four-nation round-robin competition will join champions New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Namibia in Group B of next year’s global showpiece in Japan.

“I’m very proud of the team. We gave it a good go and we’ll be back a better side. We need to work on closing out games going forward. We were in it for a long time but made a couple of bad calls and let it slip,” Kopondo told World Rugby.

While Kenya will be battling with Germany in a dead rubber in the final round on Friday, the race for the 20th spot in next year’s global showpiece will go down to the wire when Canada (10 points) collide with a rejuvenated second placed Hong Kong.

And having bounced back from their day one’s 26-19 defeat to Germany with a bonus point against Kenya, Hong Kong’s skipper James Cunningham is still dreaming of World Cup qualification.

“It was a bit scary at the start. The Kenyans came out real fast and played some great rugby, but we did what we wanted to. We knew we had the fitness, so we just ground it out and finally got some points on the board towards the end of the game,” said Cunningham.

“Having the bonus point still keeps us in this tournament, so it was definitely on our minds, but just getting the win is big for us.”

Despite being in the pole position to secure the remaining world cup ticket, Canada captain Phil Mack said they were under pressure going into the Germany match.

“It was difficult. We knew they were going to come out strong and we knew they were going to be a big physical side so we really prepared for that,” said Mack.

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Kenya SimbaRugby World Cup