Exciting rugby showcases development role
By Frankie Deges
It needed every ounce of tired bodies in three matches at the RFUEA Grounds in Nairobi on Wednesday to determine the finalists for the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2009.
While in Pool A there were three teams in the running for a final place, the last match of the pool stages between Romania and Chile was always going to be a semi final in all but name.
The first of these matches - between Cayman Islands and Kenya - was the most straightforward with the hosts scoring a fourth try early in the second half to secure the bonus point win they needed to have any chance of making the final.
The Cayman Islands had been unable to cope with the strength of Namibia four days earlier, but were far more solid against Kenya and with hard tackling and commitment they restricted to three tries in the first half.
When Oscar Ouma scored the fourth try a sigh of relief went round the ground, the Kenyans had done all they could, but were now left nervously waiting the outcome of the final Pool A match between Namibia and USA.
"It will be a long two hours," admitted Kenya Sevens coach Benjamin Ayimba as he sat in the stands watching the match, waiting to see if a Namibia win would deny the hosts or the USA would by winning with a try bonus point.
Ayimba was not alone in his nervous wait, the noisy crowd who had cheered Kenya to a 67-0 victory over Cayman Islands decided to stay and enjoy the rest of what promised to be, and eventually delivered, a thrilling day of rugby.
Realising its potential
They were treated to a match with numerous twists and turns as first Kenya, then Namibia and Kenya again had a foot in the final before David Tameilau scored the required fourth try for the Junior Eagles with five minutes remaining to top the pool.
The crowd barely had time to recover their breath from this late turnaround before Chile and Romania emerged for a match which, as expected, proved to be a game of massive hits and played with the power and passion of two very solid teams.
The battle was intense and the sun and heat also played a role as both sets of players put their bodies on the line, desperate to secure the victory and with it a place in the final against USA.
Romania appeared to have secured that with two tries in as many minutes at the hour mark, but Chile were not finished with Mauricio Rey grabbing a brace to complete his hat-trick. Nicolas Herreros' conversion drifted inches wide and then as Chile pushed for the winning score, a pass went astray and Filip Lazar raced away to put Romania in the final.
The contrasting emotions at the final whistle was clear for all to see - Romania's players ecstatic at avenging last year's loss at the same stage as the Chileans devastated at their title dreams ending - on a match day which highlighted the importance of tournaments like the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy.
"For the second time in two years, the very tight results and exciting rugby seen shows the relevance of this tournament in the development of rugby players," said Philippe Bourdarias, the IRB's Tournaments Manager.
"In a year since the tournament in Chile, teams and players have become stronger, faster and more precise. All of this confirms the importance of this tournament."