Heartbreak for Lionesses as they miss out on World Cup qualifiers

Kenya Lionesses Sinaida Aura (Left) tackled by Colombia’s Daniela Alzate during their rescheduled Rugby World Cup repechage qualifier match at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya on August 25, 2021. Stafford Ondego, Standard]

National 15s rugby women’s team, Kenya Lionesses narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2022 Rugby World Cup qualifiers after losing by a point in a 16-15 defeat to Colombia yesterday at Nyayo Stadium.

Kenya needed a win of any sort in the Repechage Qualifier match to qualify for the next stage where they would compete with sides from Europe, Asia and Oceania (Samoa) for the last ticket to Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

However, Colombia fly half Maria Alzuaga had other ideas after breaking Kenyans hearts with her 16 point performance, scoring two unconverted tries and two penalties to lead the South Americans to the next stage.

Leah Wambui and Janet Okello crossed over for Kenya’s two tries as Grace Adhiambo added five points in the defeat.

The defeat now stretches the Lionesses losses to five in a row since competitive rugby resumed after a break due to coronavirus outbreak.

Heading into the match, the national team had lost all their recent matches starting with a 37-15 aggregate defeat to Madagascar (27-15 and 10-0) in the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup last month before falling to South Africa (66-0 and 29-22) in test matches a few weeks ago.

The match started on a high note with both teams exchanging early penalties but neither could take the lead.

Kenya’s fly half Grace Adhiambo was the first in trying to get three points from a penalty, but she send her attempt wide, a similar result witnessed  from her opposite number Maria Alzuaga from Colombia.

The visitor’s would however take a 3-0 lead off Alzuaga’s boots as the fly half responded after her earlier miss.

Kenya captain Juliet Nyambura would be sent to the sin bin for dangerous play as Lionesses were reduced to 14, a numerical advantage Colombia capitalised on to double their lead to 6-0 with another penalty by Alzuaga.

In the half hour mark, Alzuaga stretched the visitors lead to 11-0 after scoring the match’s first try which she failed to convert.

Kenya would respond at the stroke of halftime after Bernadette Olesia exchanged passes with Leah Wambui who grounded the ball as Kenya trimmed the lead to 11-7 after Adhiambo’s conversion.

In the final half, the Lionesses came back stronger and reduced the lead to 10-11 after Adhiambo converted three points off a penalty.

Moments later, the Lionesses led for the first time in the match after Okello quickly tapped the ball following a penalty in Colombia’s half before accelerating to the touch down for a 15-11 lead after a missed conversion by Adhiambo.

Indiscipline would come to hunt Kenya again after Lionesses were reduced to 13 after yellow cards to back rowers Wambui and Mitchelle Akinyi for successive offences.

The South Americans made their extra numbers count once again as they went for a scrum and attacked the right side for Alzuaga to land her second try of the match at the right corner.

Failure to add the conversion saw Colombia lead by just a point, but they held on in the final 16 minutes to win the match 16-15.