“Confidence won’t be in short supply when Chipu takes to the field for the World Rugby U20s Trophy. They could lose every game at the Trophy, that is not a problem, that is not my concern, my concern is making sure by the time we leave Brazil people respect us for the brand of rugby we play.” Those were the words of Head Coach Paul Odera during his interview with World Rugby in June.
True to his words, from the three matches Chipu have played, they have earned people’s respect as they progressed. From losing 63-11 to Uruguay on day one, beating Brazil 26-24 on day two and one exemplary performance displayed in their encounter with Japan.
Trailing 7-0 in the first seven minutes of the match, Chipu patiently worked their way into the opponents half and a penalty against Japan presented Dominic Coulson with a kicking opportunity giving Chipu three points. Japan responded with two quick tries and one conversion before a sneaky grabber kick off Coulson’s foot opened up the play and led to Hibrahim Ayoo landing Chipu’s first try, the conversion sailed wide.
Japan cut through Chipu’s defense twice adding an extra 12 points to their tally, the two tries sandwiched Timothy Omela’s try that came off Barry Young’s clearing of a ruck, Omela selling a dummy to his defenders creating a highway to the try box. Coulson added the extras for a 31-15 half time score.
Look at how Timothy Okwemba sold that dummy and dived for #Chipu‘s second try!! The boys have shown a huge deal of improvement so far. Let’s see what the second half has to offer.#WorldRugbyU20s
Video: @WorldRugby pic.twitter.com/shxsdLLWYp
— Kenya Rugby (@OfficialKRU) July 17, 2019
Samuel Were’s attempt at reducing the gap was denied after he knocked on the ball in the try line. This however did not dim Chipu’s mood as the forwards carried the ball forward in phases that eventually set up Ian Masheti to score Chipu third try that Coulson converted.
The explosive duo of Samuel Asati and winger Geofrey Okwach paired up adding an extra 12 points: Asati setting up Okwach to go over the whitewash in both occasions.
That acceleration from @OfficialKRU‘s Geofrey Okwach 😲#WorldRugbyU20s pic.twitter.com/QAs9gOgoYL
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) July 17, 2019
Japan were awarded a penalty try in between the two Kenyan tries giving them a four-point lead, Japan 38 and Chipu 34. They would then score an extra two tries in the last twelve minutes sealing their third win in the pool matches.
Chipu might have lost the match but you could not help but marvel at their performance. The scrums were much better than before and they had control of their line outs. Granted, the lack of composure in some instances when attacking cost them the ball possession but as Odera said, they are gradually working on all their weakness. One by one.
Photos courtesy of World Rugby