A last minute try by Maddison Hughes broke Kenya’s hearts as Shujaa lost 19-14 to the United States in their opening game of the Tokyo Olympic Games on Monday. The Kenya Sevens boys had come from 12-0 down to lead 14-12 and looked on course for a win before Hughes dotted down with seconds remaining.
“We started slow and that was the challenge we had. We gave them two soft tries but at least we got back into the game. We had moments to close down the game with 90 seconds to go but we didn’t. It is a lesson we need to learn that if it is time to close the game we have to close,” said coach Innocent Simiyu.
His sentiments were shared by captain Andrew Amonde who said; “I think we came close and these are the fine margins which make the difference in such a huge tournament. We had our chances but we didn’t use them but we have to pick up from there. We just focus and hopefully we bounce back stronger.”
The USA had started off a set piece quickly off the ruck, with the ball being run out on the left. Highes picked the ball on the halfway mark, ran down the flank and despite Collins Injera’s late attempt to clamp him down, the American had already galloped into the try box/
Mike Friday’s side had turned over possession after Willy Ambaka’s try was ruled out by the Television Match Official (TMO). The burly Kenyan centre had run on to an Eden Agero kick behind the defense.
However, the referee cancelled out the tie after replays showed he had knocked on the ball under a tackle from Matai Leuta. It is from this set piece that the Americans scored their winning try which was converted.
The USA were clever in their restart, winning the ball off on the left before taping it out of play with the buzzer already sounded.
Shujaa had started the game slow and the USA had scored two tries even before Kenya could leave their own half after kick off.
Kenya had worked to win back possession before Herman Humwa was penalized for holding. Off the rack, the USA spread the ball wide on the right quick before Carlin Isles picked up and touched down under pressure.
The USA capitalized on another of Kenya’s mistakes in ball handling and this time Iosefo Martin dived over the line after Joe Schroeder had bulldozed the ball into Kenya’s 22.
Just before halftime, Shujaa pulled one back when speedstar Collins Injera dotted down with a good sprint down the middle after Kenya won possession from the restart. Nelson Oyoo played out superbly driving on the left and taking two Americans with him, before offloading to Injera.
In the second half, Shujaa started better and were rewarded when Jeff Oluoch crossed over after an offload from Eden Agero. Oluoch had dotted down the try just a minute after his had been stopped on his track as he glided away on the right headed for the try box.
He greased through a tackle, went down and back up again, but the referee whistled that he had not released the ball after the tackle from the USA was completed.
Shujaa managed to hold on to the lead, but should have done better to run down the clock with one and a half minutes remaining before the disallowed try and USA’s winner.
Innocent Simiyu’s charges will now take on South Africa in their second match at 1pm, a game that will be crucial to determine whether or not they make it into the Cup quarters. The South Africans had started their campaign with a win over Ireland.