History is made

HR-GettyImages-521834324_masterKenya’s Rugby Sevens team have made history after winning their first ever title in the HSBC World Series

Benjamin Ayimba’s side, inspired by two-try hero Collins Injera and sponsored by Kenya Airways, beat leaders Fiji 30-7 in Singapore to put their name on the rugby map.

It was a memorable occasion for the team, and the country, because it has taken 115 tournaments and 629 matches to make it happen. Kenya have reached the finals once before – losing to England in Wellington in 2013 – but have never lifted silverware.

This time, however, led by captain Andrew Amonde and assisted by brothers Collins Injera and Humphrey Kayange, they proved unstoppable.

A fresh approach
It has been an incredible turnaround for the team under new coach Ayimba, who took over the team in 2015 following a frustrating campaign the previous year. With seven members of the squad under the age of 24, their future looks bright – especially with an Olympics to look forward to in Rio in August. Certainly in the National Stadium in Singapore they looked stronger than ever. The underdogs had a game plan – and it worked.

Having beaten France in the quarter-finals and Argentina in the semis they scored the opening try through Oscar Ayodi and never looked back.

Injera added two more tries (the 224th and 225th of his career), which leaves him tantalisingly close to the all-time record of Argentina’s Santiago Gomez Cora.

Substitutes Nelson Oyoo – who ran the length of the pitch – and Frank Wanyama added tries to complete an incredible victory typified by hard work and incredible fitness.

Kayange said: “What a way to win it! Fiji has been a top side all season and coming into this game we knew it would be tough – but we fancied our chances and got the win in the end. It is a big moment for Kenya.”

World Sevens top try scorers
1    Santiago Gomez Cora     (Argentina) 230
2    Collins Injera     (Kenya) 225
3    Ben Gollings     (England) 220
4    Dan Norton     (England) 205
5    Fabian Jurie     (South Africa) 179

Quick chat with Collins Injera
Voted player of the tournament at the Singapore Sevens

Q What an incredible achievement for Kenya Rugby! What does it mean to the team and the country?
It means a lot. Kenyan rugby has come a long way and getting one over on Fiji is really special. Especially as we won our first title. We’ve waited a long time.

Q You beat a good team in the final, too…
Exactly. Right now they are the strongest team. They are leading the championship but we kept believing.

Q What about you personally? What did it mean for you?
It felt awesome. It’s always been one of my goals to win one of the legs, and now it’s happened. We’ve really worked hard. We reached the final in 2013 and lost it, and coming into this one, we had to prepare well and believe that we were going to win it. The boys deserved it.

Q You have a chance to become the all-time top try scorer in Sevens history. Is that your next focus?
Winning the final meant more to me than the tries. I’m not focused on them because the ultimate goal is to medal at the Olympics later this year. It’s a big year for Kenya.

“It was a long, hard battle. We got to the final and sniffed the win, and we just played hard. We kept to our guns and kept on pressing, and the results came our way.”
Captain Andrew Amonde

“You have made us proud, our star continues to shine as a powerhouse in sports. A brilliant, confident and powerful effort has earned Team Kenya a richly deserved victory.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta

”I don’t think it has sunk in, it will take a few hours – probably when I get a proper look at the trophy.”
Kenya coach Benjamin Ayimba