Despite having lost their second group game to Australia during the first day of competition, the defending champions of the Singapore leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – Kenya – are still confident that they can successfully defend their crown when the competition heats up tomorrow.
Said Kenya team captain Andrew Amonde, 33, who plays back-row, “I think that we have performed well today. When we needed to score, we did, and when we were down we still kept on fighting very hard. That is a good mentality to create an upset again.”
Kenya’s main target to win the trophy again
Added Amonde, “Our main target is to win the trophy again. I am still confident that we will win. We are in the knockout phases again and I think that we can pick up the pace on Sunday and play very well.”
As well, he also feels that the weather in Singapore suits the Kenyans very well, a key reason as to why they are able to step up their game here.
Said Amonde, “Singapore is a very good hunting ground for us because even though it is physically very far from home, the atmosphere is similar to home so we are at an advantage; we can come here and put in the effort and get the results that we want.”
Still a good start for Kenya
The captain was, however, also quick to point out that Kenya had struggled during the first day of competition at last year’s tournament, taking time to get into the groove.
But this time around though, he feels that his team had got off to a good start, beating Argentina 22-7 in their first game, and clinching the second spot in their group with a 17-7 victory over Samoa. Their main intention had been to win their first group game, which they had achieved.
Said Amonde, “This year is not the same as last year, where we struggled at the beginning and only got into it on the second day. We will never know where we will end up tomorrow (Sunday), but we will put in the effort and come out stronger.”
Together with group A winners Australia, Kenya make it out of their pool and into the Cup quarter finals.
To top the group, Australia had beaten Samoa (19-12), Kenya (29-7) and Argentina (19-7).
Australians are one of three unbeaten sides
Having won all three of their pool games, this makes the Australians one of the three sides still unbeaten in the first day of the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens. The other two sides are New Zealand and Fiji.
New Zealand had topped Pool D, dubbed the “pool of death” by winning over Scotland (22-21), Wales (36-14) and United States (21-14).
Fiji comfortably beat Hong Kong 40-0, as well as won by massive scorelines against Russia (38-7) and Canada (35-7).
Fiji coach Gareth Baber, 44, is happy with how Fiji had performed. He said, “There is no major issue with our games. Tomorrow (Sunday) we will just have to make sure that we stay disciplined in terms of maintaining our game plan and putting pressure on our opponents.”
In fact these had been what Fiji’s tactics had been in their three group games today. Said Baber, “The last game was the one when we did not have the ball but we still scored three or four tries. We are still trying to build on our game and exercise control when we do not have the ball, putting pressure on the opponents and when they make an error, they kick the ball away; we then turn it over and go to the other end of the field and score; our boys are good at doing that.”
Cup Quarter Finals tomorrow
So in the Cup quarter finals today, this will feature Fiji against United States, Australia against series leader South Africa and New Zealand against Canada. The other quarter final will see Pool B winners England meeting defending champion Kenya.
Singapore win the Men’s Final of the South East Asia Sevens
In local rugby, Singapore also delighted the home crowd with a victory against causeway rivals Malaysia in the Men’s final of the South East Asia Sevens. The home team got to a perfect start, when they were awarded a penalty try in the first minute, giving them a 7-0 lead. Malaysia’s Wan Izzudin hit back to even the scores at half time, though.
But in the second half, Singapore captain Marah Ishraf’s looping cross-field kick over the Malaysian defence, and duly converted by winger Teng Chong Yao, restored the host lead and the conversion was successfully made by Ishraf himself. Matthias Chia then scored Singapore’s third try.
Said Ishraf, 22, “There is always a lot of pride at stake when we play Malaysia. It was a hard final. In the second half the try was crucial and once we took the lead, I told the boys to fight hard and keep possession. As long as we had the ball it would be hard for Malaysia to catch up. It’s a good win today but the end goal is the South East Asia Games.”
Thailand defend their women’s title
And in the women’s final, defending South East Asia champions Thailand beat Singapore 34-0 to successfully retain their title.
Second day continues tomorrow
The second day of rugby action continues today and sees the Schools Under-14s final between Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and St. Andrew’s Secondary. Tickets are still available at www.singapore7s.sg.