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SPORTS

Positive start

RUGBY By BS MULAVI | November 30th 2013

By BS MULAVI

Kenya got off to a flying start in the second leg of the IRB Sevens World Series by overcoming Portugal 10-7 and France 14-5 before going down to New Zealand 40-0 in their last group match.

These two hard fought victories against Portugal and France almost assured them of a quarterfinal spot. Kenya’s early performance  in Dubai could best be described as solid. Not much flare was displayed while going forward, unlike previous sides, but the defensive play had definitely gone a notch higher. The focus seems to be on getting the job done.

This was evident in their first match against Portugal which required some grit determination. Individual moments of brilliance from Oscar Ayodi and Collins Injera were enough to put to rest a Portuguese side which put on a stronger performance than what most people expected.

It was a scrappy match with Kenya unable to establish a strong platform to launch its attacks. Oscar Ayodi broke through the defense line in the first half after a quickly taken penalty to race through for the first try. Kenya led 5-0 at half time. Portugal did pull one back in the second half but a late try by Collins Injera confirmed Kenya’s victory.

One commendable aspect that seemed to have improved when compared to last season was the elimination of errors from Kenya’s game. Despite being one of the top sides, Kenya’s undoing in the past has always been the number of penalties it conceded.

Against Portugal, there was a lot more discipline at the breakdowns, and when defending phase plays. While going forward,  the need to “rush” the ball to the speedsters on the wings appears to have dissipated. A lot of the attacking play seems to come from the middle of the pack, and that’s how both tries were scored.

Against France, the game was evenly matched but Kenya managed to overcome them thanks to some fantastic plays in the short channels. Tries from each half by Collins Injera and Horrace Otieno were enough to overcome a stubborn French side.

This was always going to be a much more difficult affair when compared to Portugal and Kenya really had to dig deep for this victory which almost assured them a quarterfinal spot. It’s early days still but the technical bench should be commended for adding some poise to Kenya’s play.

The side is definitely more composed than in previous tournaments, especially when they are playing without the ball. Their performance against the more established contenders still remains to be seen. However, the low error count, especially at the breakdowns, will definitely work to their advantage.

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