Kenya have ensured that the inaugural HSBC World Rugby Singapore 7s has been a memorable one – that the 27,370 rugby fans at the National Stadium yesterday, will probably remember in years to come.
That’s because the Kenyans had shocked the Fijians, winner of last week’s Hong Kong Sevens and the tournament leader, winning with a comfortable 30-7 scoreline in the Final.
Said Kenyan coach Benjamin Ayimba, “I feel ecstatic now! I don’t think that I can describe it in words – my pulse is still very high and it will take a bit of time before this victory sinks in.”
He added, “Our opponents, Fiji, won the tournament last weekend and it has been very heavy on them both mentally and physically, getting into the final again. It has been a tough two weekends for all of us, and if a team can get into the final twice in a row, that means something has eventually got to give.”
This historic win marks Kenya’s first World 7s Series victory outside of South African soil.
Kenyans had raced to a 20-0 lead
The Kenyans had signalled their intent right from the beginning of the game – when they had raced to a 20-0 lead at half time. Though Fiji’s Jerry Tu had attempted to mount a comeback for the favourites when he scored a try to narrow the gap to 7-20, the Kenyans quickly ensured that this did not happen, with two more quick tries in succession.
Said Kenya’s Collins Injera, who won the HSBC Player of the Final award, “Beating Fiji makes the feeling more special – they are the strongest team out there and they are leading the Series so getting 30 points against Fiji is simply amazing. We started the tournament well on Saturday and we knew that if we kept playing hard and minimising our mistakes, the results would come.”
He added, “Winning this final means more to me than the all-time try scoring record. The ultimate goal though is to medal at the Olympics – and this is definitely a step forward.”
Injera also hopes that the Kenyan victory will inspire more youngsters to take up rugby – in a country which is more well-known for its distance runners.
Said Injera, “Given that this is our first win, this will encourage more kids to take up rugby and now they also have more heroes to look up to. This is definitely a milestone for the whole continent and not just for Kenyans.”
Fiji admit they were beaten by a better team
Fiji admit that they had been beaten by a better team. Said the Fiji coach Ben Ryan, “Kenya did well – they are really up for it and they suffocated us. They were incredibly physical at the breakdown and did a brilliant job of countering us. This was a great lesson for us.”
He added, “I am not blaming fatigue or anything for the defeat – we were beaten by a better team – that happens sometimes in 7s. I should congratulate Kenya though – I am happy for them that they have picked up their first win. But that aside, we have had a great two days and an excellent two weeks of tournament play and we are now eight points clear in the World Series now so that is good.”
Favourites New Zealand and Australia disappointed
In the third place play-off, South Africa beat Argentina 28-0, to put themselves in second place in the World Series standings. Samoa also won the Plate Final with a 26-21 come-from-behind win against New Zealand.
Not surprisingly, the All Blacks Sevens are disappointed with this result. Said New Zealand Coach Gordon Tietjens, “I am disappointed to finish this tournament with a loss, but they boys gave it their best shot.”
Tietjens added, “There are still two more tournaments to go though (in the World Sevens Series) – I do not think that we have lost ground on leaders Fiji, I would like to come back and win the next two but the thing with sevens rugby is that it is very competitive with anyone capable of beating anyone. The Olympics Gold is still the main thing for us though.”
All Blacks Sevens player Sonny Bill Williams felt that his side had been quite unlucky to lose against Samoa, and South Africa in the Cup Quarter Final. He said, “We have a young squad and some of our players were out with injuries – but I thought that the boys stepped up. We were unlucky to lose to South Africa and Samoa, but overall i think that we had a great tournament.”
Added Williams, “But that aside, I love it here in Singapore. It is quite hot outside, but here in the stadium, the play conditions and the temperature is perfect. Unfortunately we did not go all the way, but at least we did play some great footy.”
Also disappointed with their result was Australia, who made it as far as the Cup Quarter Finals. Said Thunderbolts player Pat McCutcheon, “We were quite disappointed today. We need to take a good look at ourselves and we can only hold ourselves accountable for our results today. Other teams did not beat us. We beat ourselves.”
Scotland also took the Bowl Final with a 14-10 win over the United States and Russia won the Shield Final, beating Wales 24-7 and thus collecting three valuable Series points in the process.
U14 Schools Final
In the U-14 Schools Final, Anglo Chinese School (Independent) came from behind to triumph against Raffles Institution 14-12.
Scoring the winning try was Matthew Lim from ACS – with less than two minutes to go. This was then successfully converted.
A great event for all, that had turned out well
Pleased with how the inaugural HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens had turned out, was Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.
She said, “It was a great event for the spectators and the players – I think that it will inspire the next generation of rugby players as well. The crowd was also really sporting – it was lovely to see so many people wearing costumes. I am looking forward to next year’s event.”
Sharing her sentiments was Low Teo Ping, Chairman of Rugby Singapore, who added, “The record turnout (of more than 50,000 people over two days) confirms that we have done a great job, and we hope to do a much better job next year – so that the fans can keep on returning.”
Continued Low, “Kenya beating Fiji is also a major upset and will make the Singapore Sevens remembered around the world for years to come. We have a great stadium and the record turnout by the fans from Singapore and around the world shows that the Singapore Sevens is here to stay.”
Click here for a recap of Day 1’s action.