HONG KONG, Hong Kong- Despite putting on a spirited showing, Kenya Simbas XV succumbed to their second loss of the 2017 Regal Hotel Cup of Nations in Hong Kong on Tuesday after going down 10-31 to tournament champions Russia.
The Kenyans started brightly with Darwin Mukidza converting a penalty for a 3-0 lead after the titleholders infringed deep into the Simbas half but the joy soon turned into despair when they lost the influential UK-based Newcastle Falcons back row, Joshua Chisanga, to injury after a rack formation.
Following the set back that saw head coach, Jerome Paawater, reshuffle his pack with Martin Owila shifted to number eight to slot in for Chisanga as Elkeans Musonye ran out from the bench, Simbas lost their early momentum as the Russians took the initiative.
Ramil Gaisin shifted the ball for Evgeny Nepeivoda to ground the first five-pointer of the match with the former applying the extras for a 3-7 advantage in the 28th minute of the opening half.
German Davydov, a star of the Russian 7s set up, then went down for a quickfire brace with Gaisin converting one of the two tries to put the champions into a commanding 3-19 lead at the break.
Soon after the restart, Simbas found themselves 3-26 down with Sychev touching down off the maul as Gaisin’s boot did the rest.
Seasoned Nato Simiyu who has only just taken to the pitch for fading Biko Adema, went over for Simbas opening try as Mukidza split the posts to haul back the deficit to 10-26 and after missing two try-scoring opportunities, Russia got their fifth to close out the game after a Kenyan onslaught.
Simbas will take on Hong Kong in their last fixture on Saturday as Russia shot to the top of the group having beaten the hosts and now Kenya to remain in pole position to retain their crown.
Having carried 26 players to Hong Kong, Paawater is keen to give his whole squad a feel of the tournament and made eight changes to the squad that lost to Chile in their opener on Friday.
Six starters Peter Karia, Oliver Mang’eni, Chisanga, Leo Owade, Mukidza, Davis Chenge and skipper Wilson Kopondo retained their places in the starting line-up for this encounter.
Oscar Simiyu, Dennis Karani,Lyle Asiligwa, Biko Adema, Peter Kilonzo and Vincent Mose who all came off the bench on Friday started alongside Martin Owilah and Alex Olaba who didn’t feature in the Simbas match day one squad.
Musonye, also unused on match day one, starts on the bench.
The 16-time Simbas capped star’s body left Mukumu Mission Hospital Mortuary on Tuesday for Kakamega before setting off to his father’s home at Emasatsi in Kisa, Kakamega County on Wednesday.
-Material from Kenya Rugby Union used to compile this report