Shujaa off to winning start but it is baptism by fire for hockey team

Fireworks explode during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony at the Alexander stadium in Birmingham, England, Thursday, July 28, 2022. AP Photo

Johnstone Olindi scored two tries as Kenya Sevens team Shujaa kicked off the 2022 Commonwealth Games campaign on high note with a statement 27-14 win over rivals Uganda yesterday at Coventry Stadium in Birmingham.

Fireworks and historic presentations of art, music and craft marked the game’s opening ceremony at the revamped Alexander Stadium on Thursday night.

The ceremony paid tribute to the industrial heritage of the city and celebrated the diversity of its modern make-up.

Competitors from 72 nations and territories -- many of which are former British colonies -- will be vying for medals in 19 sports over a packed 11 days.

Prince Charles declared the Games open as British pop giants Duran Duran got the party started to a backdrop of fireworks across the city.

Team Kenya were led at the opening ceremony by 100m Africa champion Ferdinand Omanyala and Paralympian Christine Wanjira.

At Coventry stadium, Shujaa avenged the Rugby Africa Sevens Cup 22-12 semi-final defeat to Uganda in Kampala on April 24 by seeing off their neighbours 17-12 and 10-0 in the first and second half respectively.

KCB’s star Olindi gave Shujaa the lead in the second minute after a quick play from the ruck caught the Ugandans asleep as the Damian McGrath-led side led 5-0 after missed conversion.

With Uganda reduced to six-men after Ian Munyani was sent to the bin for indiscipline, Herman Humwa stretched Kenya’s lead to 12-0 after Anthony Omondi’s conversion with a centre post try.

Olympian Billy Odhiambo showed the opponents a clean pair of heels after he picked up the ball from the ruck and went on a sprint through the midfield before touching down for a 17-0 lead.

Timothy Kisiga would pull one try back for the Ugandans after running from inside his own half and turned on the afterburners to touch down between the sticks as they trailed 17-7 at half time.

In the final half, former Kabras Sugar full back Philip Wokorach returned to haunt the Kenyans after outpacing Olindi from the right wing before a couple of step-overs saw him touch down between the posts as Uganda closed the gap to 17-14.

Just like the first half, Uganda were again reduced to six men after Adrian Kisito was sent to the bin.

Olindi immediately capitalised on the numerical advantage to dot Kenya’s fourth try before Kevin Wekesa came off the bench to seal the 27-14 win.

Kenya were set to face Jamaica at 8:58pm yesterday ahead of their final match against Australia today at 12:50pm.

Shujaa are in group D alongside Jamaica, Australia and Uganda.

Elsewhere, the national women’s hockey team kicked off their Commonwealth Games campaign on a low after losing 16-0 to defending champions New Zealand in their opening match played at the University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash Centre.

Olivia Shannon and captain Olivia Merry scored a hat-trick each, Stephanie Dickins, Kaitlyn Cotter, Megan Hull and Alia Jaques netted a brace each while Alex Lukin and Rose Tynan have scored one goal apiece.

The Jackie Mwangi-coached side started the game on the back foot after trailing 3-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Despite Millicent Adhiambo pulling extraordinary saves in goal for Kenya, the East Africans could not prevent the champions from scoring in the second quarter after letting in six more goals to trail 9-0 at halftime.

Poor communication between defence and goalkeeper, short and over hit passes and failure to close the gaps allowed the defending champions even more freedom and authority in the final half after Kenya allowed three and four goals in the final respective quarters.

Kenya are in Group B alongside defending New Zealand, Australia, Scotland and South Africa.

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