Kenya kept their hopes of automatic qualification for Rugby World Cup 2019 alive with an impressive 67-0 defeat of Tunisia in Nairobi.
Ian Snook’s side ran in 11 tries, six of which came in a 20-minute spell either side of half-time, to heap pressure on Rugby Africa Gold Cup leaders Namibia, and leave their visitors staring nervously over their shoulder at relegation.
Kenya know victory over Namibia in Windhoek next Saturday will secure their place at Japan 2019 rather than entering the global repechage in November, while Tunisia face Morocco in Monastir needing to win to be sure of avoiding relegation to the Silver Cup.
Morocco remain bottom of the table following their see-saw 47-29 defeat to Uganda in Kampala, a result which means their hosts will be playing Gold Cup rugby next year.
Uganda looked set for a comfortable win as they built a 30-7 half-time lead but their visitors almost pulled off a stunning comeback, coming within four points before two late tries saw the hosts home.
Uganda's win sees them rise another place in the World Rugby Rankings to 35th after a gain of 0.74 rating points and condemns Morocco to a two-place fall. Kenya's victory over Tunisia will have no impact on their rating as a result of the 15 places and 8.8 rating points between the nations, although Tunisia will rise one to 42nd on Monday as a result of Morocco's fall.
Kenya 67-0 Tunisia
Kenya knew they needed a bonus-point win at the RFUEA Grounds in Nairobi to keep up the pressure on Namibia before their meeting in Windhoek, and they made the perfect start.
Less than five minutes were on the clock when sevens star Willy Ambaka (pictured right), making his test debut, came off the right wing and breezed through a gap in the middle of the Tunisian defence.
The try failed to settle the hosts, however, and a scrappy opening quarter ensued as handling errors hindered both sides. But just as Tunisia’s players might have thought they were beginning to play their way into the contest, Kenya put their foot on the accelerator, scoring four tries in less than 10 minutes.
First captain Davis Chenge (main picture) profited from a brilliant set move as scrum-half Samson Onsomu’s dummy run diverted the defence’s attention, allowing the number eight to canter over.
Less than two minutes later Andrew Chogo finished off following good work from his second-row partner Oliver Mang’eni and Elkeans Musonye, before Jacob Ojee snagged an interception just inside the Tunisian half and cantered under the posts.
Musonye turned try-scorer with the clock ticking past the half-hour mark, and there was still time for a further Kenya score before the break as Darwin Mukidza - who converted five of the six first-half tries - picked off a pass in his own 22 and raced upfield to touch down. It would be his last involvement in the match, though, as a pulled muscle forced the centre off.
Kenya made further changes at half-time as Peter Karia came on at hooker, and the replacement made an immediate impact, opening up the Tunisia defence before offloading to Martin Owilah to score.
The hosts lost Hillary Mwanjilwa to the sin-bin five minutes later but their visitors were unable to capitalise on their man advantage. By the time the replacement prop returned to the field Tunisia had lost two players to the sin-bin themselves and it took the hosts less than a minute to profit from playing with 15 men against 13, as Karia crashed over for his side’s eighth try.
Despite having the victory and bonus point safely in the bag, the hosts refused to take their foot off the gas and Mohamad Omollo, Tony Onyango and Ambaka all crossed the whitewash for Kenya before the final whistle.
“We came into this game looking for the maximum five points, we’re happy with that,” Kenya captain Chenge said. “It’s going to be a tough game (against Namibia). Right now we’re prepared, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Uganda 47-29 Morocco
Buoyed by victory over Tunisia last weekend, Uganda were targeting another win to confirm their place in the Gold Cup next year and increase pressure on relegation-threatened Morocco.
The hosts began the game well and following an early penalty from Phillip Wokorach, the Cranes scored the first try of the match as Pius Ogena crashed over from close range.
Morocco were not about to give in without a fight, though, and in the 22nd minute fly-half Naoufal El Kadri found Karim Qadiri with a floated pass and the full-back straightened up before beating Michael Okorach to score.
A successful conversion from El Kadri narrowed the deficit to just three points. But after the metronomic boot of Wokorach had extended Uganda’s lead with a penalty, an injury to Qadiri swung momentum in the hosts’ favour.
Wokorach once again punished Moroccan ill-discipline with a calm swing of his right boot, before two tries in as many minutes appeared to take the game away from the visitors.
Qadiri’s temporary replacement Mohamed Amin Zaki lost his bearings as a clearing kick from Ivan Mogomu evaded him and Okorach made up for his earlier missed tackle to run in under the posts.
Uganda had their third try of the match when hooker Paul Sekatte broke through before off-loading to Magomu, who cantered over from close range to give the hosts a 23-point lead at half-time.
Morocco’s hopes of easing their relegation fears looked bleak as they swapped ends, but it took less than a minute of the second half for things to brighten as prop Houcine Amraoui powered over.
The visitors took another step towards a stirring comeback five minutes later as Samir Jnaoui burrowed over the try-line, following further good work from Amraoui, to cut the deficit to 11 points.
Wokorach’s 50th-minute penalty took Uganda’s lead back out to two converted scores but Morocco set up a nervous final quarter as Munaim Bachar took a pop pass from Amraoui and crashed over.
El Kadri cut the visitors’ deficit to just four points with 13 minutes remaining, but it was as close as they would get as tries from man of the match Ogena and Solomon Okia secured victory for the hosts.
Photos: APO Group
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