VANCOUVER, Canada- After a mighty run in the Vancouver leg of the 2017/18 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Circuit that saw Shujaa make it to the finals, the Kenya 7s team fell 32-12 to Fiji at the last hurdle to bag silver and a series high 19 points.
It was a repeat of the 2015/16 Singapore 7s Cup final where Shujaa famously stunned Fiji 30-7 for their one and only triumph of the elite tour but there was to be no repeat of the historic success in the sixth leg of the current season where Kenya went all the way for the first time.
Fiji notched a first victory in Vancouver and their 33rd win in 66 Cup finals and the thrilling decider in the early hours of Monday morning local time was the second meeting between the two sides this weekend as both teams went head to head in Pool C on day one. Fiji took the spoils in that match with a closely contested 24-21 score line.
In the final, the Kenyans drew first blood as Billy ‘The Kid’ Odhiambo found Willy Ambaka with a great pass before the latter touched down to give Shujaa a 5-0 lead. Samuel Oliech added the extras to give Innocent ‘Namcos’ Simiyu’s charges a 7-0 advantage.
The Fijians responded well with captain Eroni Sau putting Josua Wakurunabili to score to make it 7-5, before Valemo Ravouvou kicked in the extras to level the scores.
On his 75th appearance in the series, Injera, continued with his imperial form assisting Oliech, who showed great determination to fend off a couple of tackles to score, restoring the five-point advantage.
Sevuloni Mocenacagi then latched onto a loose ball from the Kenyans to cross over the chalked line, the missed conversion afterwards keeping the scores level at 12-12.
A quick succession of tries from Mocenacagi and Alasio Nanduva put the game put of reach for Shujaa, with Ravouvou converting both to give the eventual winners a 26-12 lead which they held on to until the death.
The final on day two followed Fiji’s victories over Argentina (43-7) in the quarter-final and South Africa (15-12) in the semi-final.
“There’s a real sense of pride more than anything today. We handled ourselves well across the weekend to get to a final with Kenya, who we’d had a tough battle with yesterday.
“It was very close at the break, we hadn’t really played much at half time but the team responded in the second half and produced the rugby that we now Fijians can and it was great to watch,” Fiji head coach, Gareth Baber, said after the match that saw his side (101) close the gap to Series winners and champions, South Africa at the top of the standings to eight points.
The Blitzboks took bronze after beating USA 29-7 in the third-place tie while Scotland took home the Challenge Trophy after stopping Spain 25-5 in the final.
Improved Shujaa who has set their sights on breaking their last-four jinx made it to the final after an impressive 24-19 comeback victory over Mike Friday’s USA team, who were fresh from winning the previous edition, the Las Vegas 7s in their own back yard.
Despite trailing 14-0 after a brace of tries from the speedy Perry Baker, Shujaa yet again displayed the never-say-die attitude that they have shown throughout the Canada 7s weekend, pulling one back through a magnificent five-pointer by Nelson Oyoo.
Oliech was successful from the resulting conversion to halve the deficit for the Kenyans.
Seconds before the break, Injera, who hit a landmark 250th try in Canada against Fiji, stole the ball from the Americans and embarked on a powerful run to then offload the ball to Oyoo who touched down between the posts for his brace.
Carlin Isles then got another try for USA and with time ticking on the clock, Injera stole the ball from an American mistake and teed up Kenya’s leading try-scorer in Canada, Ambaka, for his fifth try in Vancouver.
SportPesa Quins star Eden Agero made no mistake from the conversion leveling the scores at 19-19.
With extra-time looming, Injera proved why he is the Series second leading try scorer with another brilliant piece of play that resulted in an assist to captain Oscar Ouma who used his might to power through and touch down to set up a repeat of the 2016/17 Singapore final against Fiji.
The silver medal means Kenya remain eighth in the standings with an improved tally of 64 points, increasing the pressure on seventh-place England (70) with focus now shifting to the for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia from April 4-15 before the Series resumes in Hong Kong.