Kenya Simbas have advanced to the Rugby Africa Cup final scheduled for Sunday after edging resilient Algeria 36-33 in a tensed semi-final match played at Stade Delort, Marseille.
The Simbas who are now 80 minutes away from qualifying for the World Cup will face the winner of second semi-final pitting Namibia and Zimbabwe Sables.
Simbas came into this match fresh off an amazing 42-7 win against Uganda Cranes, and they were eager to reach the final to keep their hope of competing in the first-ever world cup alive. Algeria, on the other side, had defeated Senegal 35-12 and hoped to shock the Simbas in their first ever match up.
Algeria got off to a flying start, scoring right away, but the try was ruled out. Their first try came as a result of a strong support play, and it was converted for a 7-0 advantage. In the 11th minute, Kenya Simbas received a much-needed reaction from a ruck, with Samuel Asati picking John Okoth with a pass from a five-metre ruck to barge over for a try. Darwin Mukidza converted the try for a 7-7 tie.
Algeria put up another solid attack and won a penalty which they elected to go for a line-out. Off the line-out, they set up a rolling maul and accessed the try box to score through their hooker. A resultant conversion was on target and the side regained a seven-point lead.
Kenya Simbas levelled the scores once more, this time following a risky move by hooker Eugene Sifuna. Sifuna attempted a long throw from a line-out in Simbas’ danger zone, but the ball rebounded in favour of Kenya, with Bethuel Anami collecting the ball and sprinting out of the 22 before kicking to set up Okoth, who retrieved the ball and dived over for a 14-14 tie following Mukidza’s conversion.
The Simbas went on to lead for the first time in the 35th minute with fullback Mukidza crossing over for the third try which he rose to convert for a 21-14 at halftime.
Just like the opening half, the Algerian started off impressive with another line-out off the left corner being turned to a maul and they pushed Kenya to once again score and convert. Fijian born Jone Kubu came off the bench for Mukidza and drilled in a penalty to put Simbas ahead by three points.
The Simbas stretched the lead further when Eugene Sifuna burst through the Algerian defence at 59th and scored a try that was converted by Kubu for 31-21 lead. The Algeria struck back with a try which they failed to convert with the scores changing to 31-26.
Paul Odera charges restored their 10 point gap with another Kabras RFC man Bryceson Adaka going over for the second try of the second half for a 36-26 lead.
Algeria were awarded a penalty that brought them to 33 points and the gap was down to three points with 10 minutes to play. The final ten minutes were tensed but the Simbas held on strong to reach the finals.
Kenya Simbas line up: 1. Patrick Ouko, 2. Eugene Sifuna, 3. Ephraim Oduor, 4. Malcolm Onsando, 5. Thomas Okeyo, 6. George Nyambua, 7. Daniel Sikuta – Captain, 8. Bethwel Anami, 9. Samuel Asati, 10. Dominic Coulson, 11. Derrick Ashihundu, 12. John Okoth, 13. Bryceson Adaka, 14. Jacob Ojee, 15. Darwin Mukidza.
Reserves 16. Teddy Akala, 17. Edward Mwaura, 18. Joseph Odero, 19. Martin Owilah, 20. Davis Chenge, 21. Brian Tanga, 22. Jone Kubu, 23. Andrew Matoka