St Mary's Yala, Koyonzo win rugby 7s titles to reach national finals

St Mary's Yala Chris Kenneth (right) sprints past his Maseno High School marker during rugby sevens semis of the Nyanza region games in Homa Bay. [Washington Onyango, Standard]

St Mary’s Yala of Siaya County and Koyonzo Secondary of Kakamega County are the 2022 Nyanza and Western Region champions respectively.

Chris Kenneth scored a last-gasp try after the hooter as Yala withstood pressure from Kisii County champions Nduru Boys to win 12-7 and qualify for the national games set to be played next week in Nakuru County.

Kenneth gave Yala a deserved lead in the opening half of the final played at Asumbi Teachers Training College in Homa Bay County on Friday with Glacious Owino successfully converting for a 7-0 lead.

With the match being played at the center after a tight defensive set play initiated by Yala, a quick restart by Nduru from a knock-on by the Siaya champions saw the Kisii-based rugby giants restore parity with a center post try as the match ended 7-7 at halftime.

In the final half, Nduru, who shocked Kisii High School to win the Kisii County games last weekend, came out much stronger and aggressive in an attempt to complete their planned comeback but Yala stood tall and defended well.

With the final move of the match, Kenneth, who has been Yala’s best player in Homa Bay, shrugged off three tackles before scoring a corner post try to win the match.

In the process, Yala became the new champions of Nyanza in rugby sevens after defending champions Agoro Sare failed to reach the finals when Nduru knocked them out 12-10 in the semis.

Yala finished the game with three wins and one defeat. The Siaya County giants defeated Gekano 25-5 before losing to Nduru 12-0 in their last group match.

In the semifinals, Yala overpowered Kisumu rugby powerhouse Maseno School 14-5 before sealing the title with a narrow 12-5 win over Nduru in what was a revenge well executed by the Siaya team.

Speaking after the win, Yala head coach Kenneth Mukok said their focus immediately turns to next week’s national games set for Nakuru as they begin hunting a spot in the East Africa games.

“I came here to win and I am happy for the boys despite making many mistakes, they did not give up on winning. Congratulations to both the winners and losers,” said Mukok.

“Our goal was to win in Homa Bay and now that we have done that, we can now turn our focus towards winning the nationals and getting ourselves to Tanzania for the East African games.”

In Mumias, Kakamega County champions Koyonzo won the Western Region rugby boy’s title with an unbeaten record after thrashing Butula Boys 26-5 in the finals played at St Peter’s Mumias Boys on Friday.

Koyonzo began the games on Thursday with a dominant 22-0, 53-0 and 21-7 group wins against Bungoma, Ebusoli and Butula before knocking out Chavakali Boys 43-14 in the quarterfinals.

In the semis, Koyonzo continued with their winning streak by edging out Musingu High 22-0 to get to the finals where they completed a double over Butula who despite the loss will also be in Nakuru for the nationals.

Elsewhere, Nyanza region defending champions Nyamira Girls finished top of Group B after seeing off five-time East African champions Sinyolo Girls 3-0 in the top of the group clash.

Sinyolo started the day with a narrow 2-0 win over Andingo in their opening group match before losing to rivals Nyamira who have not beaten them in the last 10 years.

Despite the defeat, Sinyolo are through to the semis set for today where they will face off against Migori County champions Agenga Mixed.

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