Shujaa miss semi-final berth in Hamilton Sevens contest

By Clement Wekulo: Sunday, January 26th 2020 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Rugby
France's Jonathan Laugel (C) is tackled during the World Rugby Sevens Series match between France and Kenya at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on January 26, 2019. [Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP]

Kenya’s defensive weaknesses were laid bare as they remained winless after their two pool B matches at the Hamilton Sevens in New Zealand on Saturday.

Shujaa were on course to upset England in their opener at the FMG Waikato Stadium but Paul Feeney’s charges squandered a healthy 19-5 lead to lose 24-19. Kenya would then go on to relinquish a 12-5 lead in their 12-12 draw against non-core side Japan, a result that all but ended their hopes of reaching today’s Main Cup semi-finals with only pool winners assured of progression.

The loss to the English saw Shujaa put up a below-par performance in the second half when they failed to have possession, resorting to seat back and absorb pressure from their opponents.

The move proved costly as England, who were trailing 19-12 at half-time, forced Feeney’s charges into conceding penalties in their own territory and they consequently scored two tries and one conversion to complete the comeback.

Kenya’s all-time leading try scorer Collins Injera, who is the team’s most capped player, brought his total World Sevens Series tournament appearances to 80 having returned to action after missing the opening two legs in Dubai and Cape Town.

Against England, William Ambaka opened the scoring for Kenya as he broke away deep from his own half then sprinted almost the entire length of the field to register an unconverted try.

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England responded with a five-pointer of their own through Ollie Lindsay-Hague before Billy Odhiambo set up Ambaka for his second try of the match which was converted.

Prior to that encounter, Shujaa had only beaten England four times in their last 26 meetings and  it looked like the Kenyans would get a rare win in the fixture when captain Andrew Amonde got himself on the scoresheet to give his side a 19-5 advantage.

However, England were not going down without a fight and they reduced the deficit on the stroke of half-time with Dan Norton crossing the whitewash for a try which was converted by captain Tom Mitchell.

England’s tactic to deny Kenya the ball in the second half paid off as the East Africans were pinned in their own half with England’s dominance of possession allowing Will Edwards to score twice to deny Shujaa the win.

In their draw with Japan, Shujaa led 5-0 through Alvin Otieno’s unconverted try before the Asians leveled matters with Kippei Ishida’s five-pointer.

Daniel Taabu then converted his own try to restore Kenya’s lead as Dai Ozawa ensured the sides shared the spoils.

Shujaa, who were due to face South Africa in their last fixture of the preliminaries today morning, were third in pool B at the end of the first day with three points, one less than second-placed South Africa.

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