Sunday, December 11, 2011

Brazil go down to Kenya after a late try

The exciting new Emirates Airlines Cup of Nations got underway on Saturday. The competition has been organized by the host union, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in conjunction with Hong Kong and the IRB itself. The event has four competiting teams - all from the Third Tier with three different continents being represented. The UAE and Hong Kong are the two Asia sides in the event while Africa and South America also have representation in the form of Kenya and Brazil.

Saturday´s two matches were UAE vs Hong Kong and Brazil vs Kenya. The Brazil vs Kenya match was a tremendously important occassion for both sides as it was an intercontinental match - something incredibly rare for such teams. According to the IRB World Rankings Brazil are the superior side but given Kenya´s extensive experience in the IRB World Sevens Series it was not a match that Brazil entered as favorites. Neither side was the favorite as the share lack of international competition for both teams made it hard to grasp the levels of two sides from vastly different geographical situations. The match was played in extremely host conditions in Dubai and it proved to be a highly competitive affair as it went down to the wire.

Kenya scored two first half tries and Brazil one but with Brazil having more success with its goalkicking the scores were level at 10-10 at the interval. The fourth try of the match was scored by Kenya to put the Africans ahead 17-10 in the 47th minute but Brazil hit back shortly thereafter with right winger, Daniel Gregg scoring a great try. The conversion attempt failed which meant Kenya held onto a two point lead. The South Americans continued to play well from the restart and were able to turn the match as they went over for another try. Again, Brazil let themselves down as the goalkicking was off-target but they had been able to go ahead 20-17. Kenya fought back well and exploited an error in the Brazilian defence to go over for an unconverted try to go ahead 22-20. Brazil hit back, however, with a well-worked try that looked to have secured a victory for the South Americans as they led 25-22. It was Kenya who had the final say, however, as the Africans were able to adcance and were awarded a late penalty. A successful penalty kick would have meant the teams drew the contest 25-25 but Kenya´s attempt rebounded off the post and Brazil were unable to recover the ball effectively which enable Kenya to launch an attack inside Brazil´s 22. With time up on the clock, Kenya managed to get across the line to complete a 27-25 victory.

The home side (UAE) hosted Hong Kong straight afterwards and had few problems in running in a 43-7 victory to underline themselvesas the tournament favorites. The tournament continues on Tuesday with Hong Kong facing Kenya and the UAE facing Brazil.

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