Namibia deny hosts Kenya a dream start

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 21 April 2009
 
 Namibia deny hosts Kenya a dream start
Ryan McTiernan was one of USA's try scorers against Cayman Islands - Photo: Frankie Deges

Namibia survived a huge scare against hosts Kenya to join USA, Chile and Romania as the winners on the opening day of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2009 in Nairobi on Tuesday.

The African Under 19 champions seemed to heading for a surprise defeat against a Kenyan side roared on by their vocal supporters at the RFUEA Grounds until wing Nathan Ockhuizen found a way through to score under the posts in the dying minutes to seal a 22-17 victory.

Namibia had certainly had their chances to avoid such a nervous finish, having missed with two contrasting penalty attempts - one of them from the halfway line - and seen Kenya hold them up twice over the try-line in quick succession.

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However their relentless pressure in the second half ultimately paid dividends against a Kenyan side tiring after an impressive opening hour which had yielded three memorable tries from wing Collins Omae (2) and flanker Joel Omer.

"We are just overwhelmed with the win," admitted Namibia captain Robert Herridge. "We said we had to kick on on a high and this will determine how we will play the remainder of the tournament. I am just overwhelmed that the boys pulled it through.

"We have played Kenya already [in the qualifier]. We knew it was going to be tough because they are the host nation, the crowd was going to be against us and I must say the Kenyan rugby has improved and I am happy for them."

His Kenyan counterpart Eric Kioko added: "I think it was a lapse in concentration basically, we let them take the game to us, we played in our territory and we let them do that for quite a while and I believe the pressure paid, they got the try and that was the game."

USA and Namibia still on track

The victory keeps alive Namibia's hopes of finishing top of Pool A to reach the final on 3 May, although USA currently head the standings following their 64-15 victory over Cayman Islands earlier in the day at the Impala ground.

USA, who were relegated after finishing bottom of last year's IRB Junior World Championship in Wales, came out of the blocks quickly against the Cayman Islands and never looked back, running in six first half tries - including a double for wing Brett Thompson - to lead 40-0 at the interval.

The Cayman Islands, making their debut in an IRB international 15-a-side tournament, regrouped and took the game to their opponents with centre Robbie Cribb kicking four penalties as his side restricted the free-running Americans to only 24 second half points.

They came close to getting a try for their efforts and were unlucky to see one promising attack in particular end in a runaway try for USA Sevens representative Zach Test, his second of the match and third of his side's four second half tries.

USA now turn their attentions to Saturday, when they will face a Kenyan side that will be determined to bounce back from their gut-wrenching defeat against Namibia and upset one of the favourites to succeed Uruguay as Junior World Rugby Trophy champions.

Namibia will get the second match day underway at 12:00 local time (09:00 GMT) against Cayman Islands in the other Pool A match, while 2008 runners up Chile face Papua New Guinea and Romania tackle Korea in the 14:00 kick offs.

Contrasting styles in Pool B

Both Chile and Romania collected the maximum five points from their opening Pool B matches and remain on course for a repeat of their 2008 pool decider, which the South Americans won 14-3 to set up a final against rivals Uruguay.

Romania and Papua New Guinea had the honour of getting the tournament underway at the Impala ground with a match of contrasting styles under the Kenyan sun, the European champions dominating set pieces with their superior physicality and power while their opponents sought to keep the ball alive and run from anywhere on the pitch.

The Romanians scored three tries in the first half to lead 19-7 at the break, but the try of the opening 40 minutes was undoubtedly scored by Papua New Guinea flanker Desmond Korpok when he rounded of a flowing end to end move to the great delight of his team-mates.

PNG had two more tries to savour as a result of their attacking style, but Romania stamped their authority on the match with Cristian Rizea, Ionut Puisoru, Stefan Patrascu, Ionut Ciocan and Dorin Lazar crossing for second half tries to triumph 50-17.

That scoreline means that Romania head the Pool B standings on point differential from Chile after the South Americans opened their campaign with a hard-fought 49-21 defeat of Asian champions Korea at the RFUEA Ground.

Only eight points had separated the two sides at half time, but Chile scored 20 unanswered points in as many minutes after the break to strengthen their grip on the match and while Korea did finally score again through Yang Soo Woong, there was still time for one final Chilean score.

That try - their seventh of the match - came from Thomas Claps to complete the number 8's hat-trick and take his points tally to an impressive 22 with two conversions and a penalty to his name as well in the victory his side craved in memory of their teammate Santiago Fuenzalida, who died in a car accident last November.