Mixed fortunes for Shujaa in Las Vegas

Mixed fortunes for Shujaa in Las Vegas

By Bernard Ndong in Las Vegas, USA

The national sevens rugby team Shujaa are in the proverbial do or die situation as they have to edge Fiji in their final group A match at 11.36pm Saturday night to secure a place in the main cup quarter-final at the Las Vegas Sevens in the United States.

Shujaa had contrasting fortunes on Day One at the Sam Boyd Stadium, beating Russia 19 – 12 after stumbling 14 – 19 to France in their opening pool game at the 5th stop of the World Rugby Sevens Series.

Kenya had a false start literally in the opening moments of their first game as Sammy Oliech’s kick to signal the beginning of the game failed to attain the recommended distance. Referee Paulo Duarte handed the French the advantage and they duly obliged with Paule Bonnefond giving Les Bleus the lead, beating Kenya sevens flyer Nelson Oyoo out wide.Jean Pascal Barraque added the extras for a  7 – 0 lead.

Rattled by the opening try, Kenya seemed out of sorts as Sacha Valleau stretched the advantage to 12 with Barraque missing the resultant conversion. Kenya could have reduced the deficit after securing possession but Jeffrey Oluoch dropped the ball. Sammy Oliech made amends soon after when he scythed through the French with a cheeky dummy converting his own try to make it a 5-point difference. Trailing 12 – 5, Shujaa had a lot to ponder at the break.

Kenya picked up from where they’d left in the second half with William Ambaka showing a clean pair of heels to ensure Shujaa snatched the lead 14 – 12 as Oliech added the extras. The advantage was short-lived as Tavite Veradamu showed sheer grit brushing off Collins Injera and Daniel Sikuta to offload to team mate Valleau to score his second and the French’s third try. With seconds left in the game, Kenya needed to score but a last gasp effort to snatch parity from the jaws of defeat fell short with another unforced error, a telling feature of Shujaa’s opening fixture at the Las Vegas Sevens.

Head Coach Innocent Simiyu faulted the team’s laxity for the loss.

“We had a lot of unforced errors, the possession; there were critical moments where we needed composure but we rushed ourselves. There was the wind but we didn’t adjust to it.

Rattled by the loss to the French, Kenya needed to bounce back against a physical Russia. Forty seconds in, Jeffrey Oluoch put Shujaa on the scoreboard first after Nelson Oyoo had done most of the work on the left wing.

The game was halted for an extended period when Sammy Oliech was carried off the pitch on a mobile stretcher following a collision with a Russian player. Once the game resumed, Collins Injera stretched Shujaa’s advantage immediately after sidestepping his way through a porous Russian defence.Agero converted for a 12 – 0 lead. Ivan Ovchinnikov reduced the deficit for Russia after a neat back flick pass by Roman Khodin in the Kenyan 22.

American referee Mike Obrien penalized Kenya twice early in the second half and a quick tap by German Davydov caught Innocent Simiyu’s flatfooted to restore parity. With the pendulum seemingly shifting in the European’s way, Kenya responded with Injera restoring Shujaa’s lead for a 19- 12 score.  Kenya had possession as the buzzer rung in the Nevada desert air and they sought to add more points in the dying moments of the game but their efforts failed to materialize with the Russians kicking the ball out of play.

“We improved vastly against Russia, we did the basics and we had more intent on attack,” Simiyu reacted to Citizen Digital after the game.

Kenya’s main cup hopes hung by a thread with the Flying Fijians who registered an average of 35 points in their two games set to decide their fate in the final group game. Simiyu will also rue the absence of Sammy Oliech who has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament after picking up a knock during the Russia game.