NAIROBI, Kenya- Shujaa finally broke their jinx and romped to their first Main Cup semi final of the season at the Vancouver 7s when a defensive masterclass earned them a gritty 12-0 victory over England on Sunday night.
Captain Oscar Ouma and Billy Odhiambo touched down in either half for Kenya to set up an enticing semi final clash in Canada against United States who won the last leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series in their Las Vegas backyard.
Series champions and leaders, South Africa will take on New Zealand 7s champions, Fiji in the other semi where the former are hoping to atone for being beaten by the latter in the Cup final at Hamilton.
“Well played #Kenya7s. Wish you well in the Semis, I salute @cinjera for his 250th try in #Vancouver7s #Canada7s,” President Uhuru Kenyatta tweeted minutes after the landmark victory.
Keen on avoiding the mistakes that has seen them miss the last four this season, head coach and Innocent ‘Namcos’ Simiyu’s charges started the game by keeping bogey team England out of their 22 in a disciplined defensive showing.
There’s concern for Shujaa in the opening minutes when Collins Injera, who notched his milestone 250th try in Kenya’s loss in their last Pool C clash against Fiji went down and received treatment for an injury.
The former Shujaa vice-captain and record try scorer in the Series hobbled back to his feet and left the field of play clutching his midriff and there were fears his tournament, just like the opening leg, Dubai 7s, would end prematurely with injury.
Eden Agero came on in his stead and his absence did not affect the shape as Kenya used their physical power to keep England and their dangerous man, Dan Norton at bay.
Shortly afterwards, it looked for all the money in the world that Odhiambo was over for Kenya’s first score but he was stopped in his tracks by England’s captain Tom Mitchell who tackled the Kenyan half a metre from the try line.
However, Shujaa got the breakthrough their play deserved on the stroke of half time when Kenya broke free and skipper Ouma got the reward with Sammy Oliech adding the extras for a 7-0 lead at the break.
“Let’s get our width. Key thing now is stop these turnovers and better decisions on our offloads,” England coach, Simon Amor told his charges at the break in a bid to fashion a route back to the contest.
Upon the restart, it was instead Shujaa who came close to stretching their lead but another outstanding tackle, this time over the line by Phil Burgess (confirmed by the Technical Match Official) prevented Kenya from getting a second try.
With Kenya pressing England inside their 22, Injera raced back to the action as the minutes ticked to full time and took his position to strike off the five-metre scrum.
Shujaa gained another penalty and the ball was swung wide and suddenly, it was four on two and that meant that Odhiambo touched down for 12-0.
The conversion was missed but it did not matter at the end as Shujaa got past a team that had not beaten since 2011, to make the Main Cup semis for the first time in their fifth attempt this season.
With that, the reigning Canada 7s champions were sent tumbling out in the last eight.
In other Cup quarters, South Africa recovered from 19-0 down to Australia at the break to run in 24 unanswered points to punch their semis ticket while Fiji thrashed Argentina 45-5.
USA under former Shujaa coach, Mike Friday, continued their emergence as a force in the shorter version of the game when they took New Zealand All Blacks 7s to rugby school in a clinical 17-0 victory.