The Welwitschias seemed to be cruising to a comfortable win when they took a 21-0 lead after barely 15 minutes, but the Simbas produced a great comeback to draw level at 28-28, before Johan Luttig’s late try sealed the match for the home side.
In an attractive match of expansive rugby from both sides, the Welwitschias weathered Kenya’s early onslaughts to take the lead after five minutes when fullback Gershwin Mouton went over after cutting into the backline.
Danco Burger, playing at flyhalf for the first time and taking over the kicking duties converted superbly from touch and he continued to keep the points rolling with a faultless kicking display all afternoon.
The Welwitschias continued to spread the ball wide and left wing JC Greyling soon got in on the act, scoring two tries in quick succession after being put clear in space, and with Burger converting both, they raced into a 21-0 lead after 15 minutes.
The Simbas, however, launched a fine comeback and after Elvis Olukusi knocked on with the tryline at his mercy, they finally opened their account when Brian Ndirangu touched down after an impressive rolling maul by their forwards.
Kenya continued to attack and left wing Alfred Obonyo nearly scored just before halftime, but he was tackled into touch after fine cover-defence by Mouton and AJ Kearns.
The Welwitschias stretched their lead to 28-7 early in the second half when Mouton launched and finished off a counter-attack, but the Simbas soon replied when their scrumhalf Samuel Asati snapped up a loose ball and sent centre Walter Okoth over for a try converted by fullback Ntabeni Dukisa.
The Simbas’ revival continued when Beldad Ogeta launched an attack to send Teddy Akala away for a converted try, and when Elkeans Mukamiti went over for a try, with Dukisa once again converting, they were suddenly level at 28-28.
The Welwitschias, however, dug deep to produce a barnstorming finale as lock forward Johan Luttig crashed over in the right hand corner for a try converted by Henrique Olivier to secure a hard-fought 35-28 victory.
For the Welwitschias, Luttig, Max Katjijeko and Mahepisa Tjeriko shone amongst the forwards and Burger, Mouton and Greyling amongst the backs, with the latter winning the player of the match award.
The Welwitschias’ defence coach Allistair Coetzee was relieved with the win.
“It was a very entertaining match I must say and I want to give credit to Kenya for coming back. We got off to a very good start leading 21-0 early on, but little things counted against us. We conceded unneccessary penalties and we were not accurate enough in our set-pieces, so we couldn’t build on the 21-point lead that we had, and we let the Kenyans back into the game,” he said.
“We have had some close defeats in this tournament to date, but this time we got out of jail with a win, which is good for the confidence going forward, so I’m really pleased,” he added.