Kenyan sporting history was made on Sunday night as the East Africa nation captured her first HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title. In a stunning upset, they beat reigning Sevens Series champions Fiji 30-7 at the National Stadium. This was only the third time Kenya had advanced to the Cup final of a leg of the Sevens Series.
They lost to England in the 2013 Wellington Sevens final held in New Zealand and to South Africa in the 2009 Adelaide Sevens tournament.
Kenya secured their maiden Sevens Series title in style on Sunday, shocking reigning champions and overall leaders Fiji in Singapore with a 30-7 win, with veteran try machine Collins Injera crossing twice in the final to take him just two away from Santiago Gomez Cora’s world record of 230.
In the eighth stop in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2015-16 – with just Paris and London legs to come before the sport makes its Olympic Games debut in Rio de Janeiro – the Kenyans dominated in Singapore, a venue which is back on the circuit after a decade-long hiatus.
The East Africans, who had twice finished runner-up in previous tournaments, blew the Fijians off the park with four tries in the first half, including two by Injera, who took his Sevens Series tally to 228 touchdowns, just two behind Argentina legend Cora’s mark of 230.
“Winning this final means more to me than the tries,” Injera said. “I’m not focussed on them, because the ultimate goal is to [win a] medal at the Olympics.”
Despite being weary after winning in Hong Kong last week and missing a handful of their top players, Fiji were still overwhelming favourites to win the final at Singapore’s National Stadium because of their comeback powers.
In Sunday’s quarter-final Fiji scored two tries in the last minute to overturn a nine-point deficit and beat Australia 19-14.
Then they scored another two tries in the last minute to defeat South Africa 26-21 in the semis.
“We’re not blaming fatigue, we were beaten by a better team,” Fiji coach Ben Ryan said.
“In the final, Kenya extinguished us. They suffocated us and we couldn’t get our game going, the boys are going to learn some lessons there.”
Kenya also had to work hard to reach just their third final, and the first since 2013, with Injera landing a 40-metre drop goal penalty after the siren for a 15-12 win over Argentina in the semis. But they saved their best for the decider.
Oscar Ayodi scored in the first minute then Injera crossed twice and Samuel Oliech once to give Kenya a commanding 20-0 lead at halftime.
Fiji threatened to fight back when Jerry Tuwai scored under the posts shortly after the re-start, but tries from replacements Nelson Oyoo and Frank Wanyama put the icing on Kenya’s greatest triumph in rugby.
“This means a lot,” Injera said. “Kenyan rugby has come a long way and getting one over on Fiji is really special.
“They are the strongest team, they are leading the championship, but we kept believing, we kept working hard, we kept playing hard ball, and the results speak for themselves.”
Kenyans celebrated the win in bars waving the country’s flag and in social media posts. President Uhuru Kenyatta also congratulated the team on their historic win. “You have made us proud, our star continues to shine as a powerhouse in sports,” Kenyatta said.
Despite the shock loss, Fiji still extended their lead at the top of the series standings to eight points after eight of the 10 rounds to remain favourites to win gold when sevens rugby debuts at the Olympics in August.