Kevin Wambua, the Kenya Lionesses coach promised: “Kenya Lionesses are ready and up to the challenge tomorrow.”
In an interview with KRU after the opening day of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series qualifiers at the So Ko Pon Recreation ground in Hong Kong, Wambua was satisfied with the team’s performance.
“It has been a good day. The players achieved the target we set which was reaching the quarters. I am happy with the results,” Wambua stated.
He acknowledged the stakes would be much higher in the quarterfinals where they face Italy but is confident the players will step up their performance especially after coming from 5-7 down to beat Argentina in their last Pool match on Thursday.
“They will step up. The team is in good spirits after coming from down against Argentina. They are ready and up for the challenge tomorrow,” the coach assured.
The sentiments were shared by Sinaida Aura who finished the day by scoring five tries which included three against Hong Kong and one each against Belgium and Argentina.
“It has been a good day for the team. We have shown good heart, achieved what we were aiming for which was the quarters. This has given us the heart to push more, given us the spirit to fight harder. We feel we can go further,” Aura said.
Her inspiration came from being entrusted with wearing the Kenya jersey. “Just because I have been given this shirt is motivation enough because many more would like to be in my position. From the team expect better, we are motivated. We will come harder than we did today,” she assured.
Kenya 24 Hong Kong 21
In this opening match, Kenya Lionesses soaked early pressure from the hosts who denied their speedy opponents and decent possession.
Pak Yan Poon broke the deadlock by scoring and converting her own try for a 7-0 lead. Colleen Tjosvold scored the second try and Pak Yan Poo converted for a 14-0.
Just before the halftime hooter, Sinaida Aura burst from inside her 22 for a gutsy run to the line for an unconverted try.
This was the beginning of the Kenya Lionesses comeback because on resumption, Aura dotted her second and Janet Awino added the extras to narrow the gap 12-14 in Hong Kong’s favor.
A lapse of concentration and sloppy defending saw the hosts back in the driving seat when Chong Ka Yan scored the third try and Tjosvold converted for a 21-12 lead.
Celestine Masinde split the Hong Kong defense and raced under the post for the never-say-die Kenya Lionesses. Awino converted to narrow the gap 21-19 in Hong Kong’s favor.
At death, Aura who was in a spanking form turned on the burners to score the winning try. Awino missed the conversion.
With the minds settled, Kenya marched on to the next match against Belgium.
Kenya 5 Belgium 7
This was a tough match which saw Belgium score an early try through Margaux Lalli. Sytske D’Haeseleir converted for a 7-0 lead.
On resumption, each team stood their ground before Aura scored at death. Doreen Remour narrowly missed the conversion. The loss set up a must-win-situation for Kenya Lionesses in their last match against Argentina.
Kenya 17 Argentina 7
Janet Awino opened the scoring after 40 seconds. Remour missed the conversion.
But, Argentina who played at the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Las Vegas responded immediately with a try by Mayra Genghini try after a couple of mistimed tackles. Sofia Gonzalez converted for a 7-5 lead at halftime.
The second half saw Aura cross the white chalk in the 11th minute. Awino missed the conversion as Kenya led 10-7.
Masinde scored Kenya Lionesses’ third try in the 13th minute and Awino converted for the win.
Quarter finals: South Africa v Papua New Guinea, Belgium v Netherlands, Italy v Kenya, Japan v China.
Pool A: Japan, China, Netherlands, Jamaica.
China 19 Netherlands 21, Japan 54 Jamaica 0, China 68 Jamaica 0, Japan 22 Netherlands 5, Netherlands 22 Jamaica 7, Japan 21 China 14.
Pool B: Argentina, Kenya, Hong Kong, Belgium.
Kenya 24 Hong Kong 21, Argentina 0 Belgium 26, Kenya 5 Belgium 7, Argentina 17 Hong Kong 7, Hong Kong 15 Belgium 10, Argentina 7 Kenya 17.
Pool C: South Africa, Colombia, Papua New Guinea, Italy.
Colombia 0 Papua New Guinea 19, South Africa 5 Italy 15, Colombia 5 Italy 17, South Africa 24 Papua New Guinea 7, Papua New Guinea 12 Italy 5, South Africa 33 Colombia 0.