All Blacks break Kenya 7s hearts, Shujaa in quarters
New Zealand All Blacks 7s denied Kenya Sevens a famous victory but the team achieved its first objective at France 7s when they qualified for the Main Cup quarters following victories over Portugal and Russia at Stade de Bouin stadium in Paris.
And it would have been a clean sweep of the Pool A had Shujaa not suffered a heartbreaking last-gasp 17-19 defeat to New Zealand who topped the group with Giles Kaka sticking in the knife by scoring the winning converted try at the death.
Akira Ioane dotted down for the first five-pointer after showing superb power and balance to swat away Willie Ambaka. World Cup winner, Sonny Bill Williams appeared to be struggling with a knee injury but was okay to play on.
Kenya fought back when Collins Injera found his brother Humphrey Kayange with a flat pass and the try wasscored out wide on the left.
Kayange then set up try number two with the clock in red, picking up the ball at the bottom of the ruck, after Kenya attack hard at the breakdown, and going to within a metre of the New Zealand line.
The veteran had the presence and the ability to pop the ball up off the floor into the arms of Samuel Oliech who went down by the posts. Oliech knocked over the simple conversion and Kenya had a five-point lead at the break.
Kenya then went on course for a shock win.
Shortly after New Zealand had a try scrubbed off for a forward pass, Kenya got their third when skipper Andrew Amonde flat footed Bill Williams with a stop-and-go and then had the power to muscle his way through the tackle of Kurt Baker.
But another class finish from Rieko Ioane gave the All Blacks hope with two minutes to go with the scores at 17-12.
Kaka then came up with the match-winning try for New Zealand from a quickly taken tap penalty with the clock in the red.
Kenya were out on their feet at the end but will rue the missed opportunity to kill the game off when they over complicated an attack inside the New Zealand 22 and Frank Wanyama knocked on.
“We played our first game yesterday (Friday) and that was a tough game because we were playing guys who were fighting relation. After winning the Singapore, every smaller team know they can win. That is why it is going to be tougher against the so called smaller team.
“We hope to get 10 points, that’s a good as it can be. We are looking to go a lot further and if we get in the finals, that would be perfect for us,” coach Benjamin Ayimba said.
His assistant captain, Injera inched to within three of becoming the record all time World Series try scorer but he again stressed his mind was on helping Shujaa scale the best heights they can in the penultimate leg of the series.
“New Zealand is a big team; they have big physical side and we managed to contain them for a while and we just need to keep our concentration, up our ante and focus until the end. It’s a lesson we learnt that we are going to carry to the quarterfinals.
“For us, we have to tick the small boxes; we have our small targets we have set as a team and we need to keep grinding and hopefully, we will go all the way,” he charged.
“My focus is playing is the team, if we perform well as a team, that’s better for me. If the tries come, they will come, for me, I’m not really focused on breaking the record, records and numbers are there to be broken and if I do it, well and good,” Injera added.
The seventh placed Shujaa had earlier booked a place in the quarters after adding the Russian scalp to their 29 -14 victory over Portugal on Friday night.
Oliech continued his top performance in the ninth leg of the 2015/16 HSBC World Series by scoring the first try for Benjamin Ayimba’s side but missed the conversion to put Shujaa 5-0 ahead.
Willy Ambaka was on the mark in the 8th minute to score his second try in Paris, with Oliech converting it making it 12-0 for Kenya at halftime.
Ambaka continued his first half form in the second scoring another try but the conversion was missed by Oliech to make for a 17-0 advantage.
In the 10th minute Russia got on the mark scoring a try through Roman Roshchin with German Daydov converting for 17-7.
Ayimba brought on Wanyama and Lugonzo Ligamy as substitutes a minute later before Alex Olaba also got a run-out.
Kenya then sealed the victory through veteran Kayange who used all his experience to touch down at the stroke of the hooter with his brother, Injera missing the extras for 22-7.
Robert Aringo and Billy Odhiambo had a taste of the encounter coming on towards the end of the match as substitutes with their place in the quarters assured.
In their opener against Portugal the Singapore 7s champions pulled a riveting comeback in their 24-14 victory in their opener.
Portugal started their first half on high racing to 14-5 lead over Ayimba’s side with Nuno Guedes scoring and converting his try for a 7-0 lead in the first minute.
Tiny Gloria Estevez scored the second in the fifth and Nuno did what he likes most converting it to ensure his team had a lead of 14-0.
Before half time speed star Injera pulled one back but Oliech missed the conversation.
“This is our game to lose, we are the defending series champions lets go there and do it,” Ayimba told his charges at the break.
Oliech scored a try in the eighth minute but missed the conversion with Injera getting his second after the introduction of Nelson Oyoo added more pace in the side.
Oliech added the two points for Kenya to edge 14-15 with Willy Ambaka getting the next five-pointer that was converted by Injera for 24-14.
Alex Olaba and Robert Aringo came on in the 13th minute as substitutes, while Frank Wanyama had to wait up to the 14th minute to have a taste of the encounter.
Kayange then secured the victory by crossing the whitewash but his sibling missed with his boot for a 29-14 final score.