Kenya ensured the second day of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2009 ended in thrilling fashion as the hosts scored three tries in the last quarter to stun USA 33-32 before a packed RFUEA Grounds in Nairobi on Saturday.
The hosts had trailed 32-14 after hooker Tim Barford touched down the USA's fourth try in the Pool A encounter, but roared on by the enthusiastic crowd Kenya came to life with Kenny Andola and Collins Omae (2) scoring the tries to upset one of the title favourites.
The only consolation for USA is that they picked up two bonus points in defeat, but they must now beat Namibia when the pool stages climax on Wednesday if they are to reach the final following the African champion's emphatic 104-7 defeat of the Cayman Islands.
Namibia ran in 17 tries to overwhelm their opponents at the only match taking place at the Impala ground, wing Nathan Ockhuizen - his side's match-winner against Kenya on nday one - claiming a hat-trick as 11 other players crossed the try-line.
Romania top Pool B on point differential from 2008 runners up Chile after picked up their second victories of the tournament against Korea 65-14 and Papua New Guinea 50-22 respectively, although neither had it all their own way.
Papua New Guinea once again scored some memorable end to end tries, including an intercept for the opening try of the match against the powerful Chileans, while Romania scored seven unanswered tries to make certain of victory over a plucky Korea.
Hosts deliver at the death
It was the Kenyans though who steal the headlines again, the hosts giving their loyal supporters reason to smile only four days after suffering a heartbreaking loss when Ockhuizen scored in the final minute to give Namibia a 22-17 victory.
Kenya had tired in the second half against Namibia, but this time they came alive in the last 20 minutes, drawing strength from their supporters as first Ken Andola crossed before wing Collins Omae completed his hat-trick to allow George Mutuku to kick the winning conversion.
Omae, who took his tally in the tournament to four with his hat-trick, scored first in the second half as Kenya cut the deficit to 17-14 before the USA raced clear again with their impressive fly half Tai Enosa kicking his second drop goal and then setting up a try for wing Zach Test.
Test, who like Enosa was this week named in new USA Eagles coach Eddie O'Sullivan's first training squad this week, then turned provider for a bonus point securing fourth try, putting in the kick for Barford to chase and touch down.
Kenya, and Omae in particular, then brought the crowd to their feet with the wing's pace crucial in his two tries, the first coming after he gathered his own chip over the defence to outpace the cover and the second after the Chipu worked the ball along the line to him on the flank.
Crucially Omae knew he needed to dot down near the posts to give scrum half Mutuku a straightforward conversion to give Kenya the lead for the only time in the match, something he managed to do and force Enosa into another drop goal attempt which this time flew wide.
"I am happy with the boys, though we only woke up in the dying minutes," admitted Kenya coach Mitch Otieno. "We respect every team in this tournament, but will definitely have to give them our brand of rugby. We expected to win, it's a great feeling and we now await our match against the Cayman Islands."
USA captain Cameron Dolan was understandably gutted by the defeat: "We are indeed heartbroken. The Kenyans were too fast and the crowd itself carried the day for them. Now we just have to wait for our next match against Namibia and take them on."
Namibia surpass expectations
Full of confidence after their get out of jail result in the all-African affair, Namibia scored three tries in the opening 10 minutes against the Cayman Islands and never looked back, hooker Theo Coetzee, Ockhuizen and returning scrum half Pandeni Ueitele all touching down.
Michael Manderson crossed for Cayman Islands - playing in their first IRB international 15-a-side tournament - but Namibia had built a 44-7 lead by the half time whistle as captain Robert Herridge, Lezhanne Alcock, Andre Walters and Petrus du Plooy added to the try-count.
The match was already won, but Namibia were in no mood to let up with Alcock, Andre de Klerk, Johannes Tromp (2), Charl Freygang, Mahco Prinsloo, Waldo Schafer, Ochuizen (2) and Ueitele crossing to record the highest score in the tournament's two-year history.
Namibia, as the only unbeaten side in Pool A, sit top with nine points, two more than USA with host nation Kenya on six points and Cayman Islands bottom with none. A victory over USA and Namibia will meet the Pool B winner in the final on 3 May.
Surpassing the century proved a surprise to both Namibia captain Herridge and coach Johan Diergaardt, who admitted his "target was 50 points" but "having doubled it is just a great feeling. We know that against USA is going to be a big one and our discipline is what will win us this tournament."
His Cayman Islands counterpart Richard Adams added: "It's an awful feeling. With the Namibians really this is not what we expected as we had watched their match against Kenya and definitely this is not the team we saw. This time round they were much bigger, faster and the experience they have helped them carry the day."
Romania hit ground running
The Pool A winner will face either Romania or Chile in the final, the two sides separated only by point differential having picked up a maximum 10 points in the tournament following victories on Saturday over Korea and Papua New Guinea respectively.
Ten points had separated the two sides had half time in both matches, but Romania made certain of victory with a ruthless start to the second half with three tries in six minutes - through number 8 Cristian Munteanu, centre Madalin Lemnaru and wing Ionut Puisoru - rocking Korea.
The Romanians were not finished yet, despite head coach Mircea Paraschiv taking the opportunity to make changes, with full back Marian Pirvu and Puisoru crossing before the European champions were reduced to 14 men when flanker Ionut Ciocan was sent off for his second yellow card.
Even the loss of a player did not stop Romania's charge with fly half Stefan Patrascu intercepting one of Koreas rare forays forward to sprint in and Puisuro then competing his hat-trick while his side had only 13 men on the field with Dorin Lazar in the sin bin.
Korea though kept battling away and managed to stop the Romanian juggernaut to claim a consolation try through second row Lee Jong Min, a score rewarded with a huge cheer from crowd. Patrascu had the final say though with a last minute penalty.
"We are happy but a little bit sad due to the number of injuries we have so far," captain Eduard Marinca admitted. "We will have to come up with new strategies against Chile, who beat us last year [14-3 in the pool decider]."
Scrum key to Chile win
Chile will hope to again deny Romania a place in the Trophy final this year, having recovered from the blow of conceding the opening try to a length of the field try for Papua New Guinea by Bobby Pau to overwhelm their opponents in the scrum.
The 2008 runners-up were in complete control at scrum time, their superior strength resulting in Papua New Guinea's forwards being pushed back or wheeled 90 degrees time and time again. In fact number 8 Thomas Claps scored three identical tries in the second half after controlling the ball at the base before touching down.
He could have increased his total of five for the tournament so far, having had the ball at his feet when referee Francisco Pastrana awarded three penalties tries when Papua New Guinea's scrum collapsed or broke up with the force exerted by Chile.
The South American side's passion had shone through as they belted out their national anthem and having been rocked by the interception, Chile took time to settle with full back George Laban's second penalty attempt getting them on the board.
Chile continued to dominate territory and possession at the RFUEA Grounds and their superior power in the scrum finally told and led referee Pastrana to award the first penalty try when the Papua New Guinean scrum collapsed again.
The Oceania champions though continued to threaten and should have scored after one flowing move, but the pass went astray and within minutes Chile took the lead for the first time when second row Salomon Diaz went over in the corner.
Claps' hat-trick made certain of victory for Chile, but Papua New Guinea scored another contender for try of the tournament, captain Christopher Kakah taking a quick lineout in his own 22 and slicing through the Chile defence, combining well with Bomai Kaupa to finish the move under the posts.
Papua New Guinea kept finding ways through the Chilean defence - something which will concern coach Rodrigo Boyé ahead of their final Pool B match with Romania on Wednesday - with Jackson Pato spinning out of the tackle to score his side's third try.
"The scrum was our strength, five tries came directly from there so we are happy with that," admitted Boyé. "We did start very slowly, we were asleep for most of the first 20 minutes. If you allow a team like PNG to have the ball they will run at you, and they did that very well. Once we managed to control the ball and play at our rhythm, we managed to handle them."
Claps added: "We won the game in the scrum and although my name is next to three tries, they were all a team effort. Our anxiety was notorious from the start but once we settled ourselves we dominated. Matches are won in the forwards and our next game against Romania will be a very hard battle."
Papua New Guinea were understandably disappointed, but determined to learn from the loss.
"The loss is very disappointing for us. We ran the ball whenever we could and that is the style of game we love. There had to be a winner and they won it. It was the strongest scrum we've ever faced and it is a lesson we need to take with us for the next game. There were mistakes that we will work on in the next days," said Kakah.