Kenya Simbas stormed into the 2023 Rugby World Cup Africa qualifiers final after edging out Algeria 36-33 in a tense semi-final at Stade Delort, Marseille in France Wednesday.
Kenya will meet either Namibia or Zimbabwe in the final. The two southern African rugby giant nations are due to play in the second semi at the same venue from 10pm.
The Simbas touched down five tries, four conversions and a penalty against the Lion Cubs’ four tries, a penalty try and three conversions.
Once again centre John Okoth grounded a brace of tries as fullback Darwin Mukidza, hooker Eugene Sifuna and Bryceson Adaka scored one each for the Simbas who led 21-14 at the break.
Mukidza made three conversions, while Jone Kubu, who replaced him, curled over a conversion and a penalty.
Flanker Maryn Youcef also managed two tries for the Lion Cubs with hooker Issam Hamel and winger Nadir Megdoud landed one each.
The Algerians benefited from a penalty try with their full-back Benjamin Caminati making the extras.
Algeria started strongly from kick-off with Megdoud breaking on the wing to score with 15 seconds, but it was cancelled after Megdoud was judged to have stepped on the line.
But it didn’t take long before the forceful Algerian forwards laid the ground with lovely hands.
Megdoud sliced through before Youcef landed in the fifth minute. Caminati added the extras for a 7-0 lead.
The athletic Kenyans turned on the screws with fly-half Dominic Coulson and winger Derrick Ashihundu making the Algerian defence to dig deep.
Kenya got a lineout and the forwards went loose in the ruck and scrum-half Samuel Asati put Okeyo through at the middle. Okeyo crushed through his markers to land. Mukidza converted to level at 7-7.
But the Algerians struck back with scintillating displays especially from their forwards, who dominated in the rolling mauls. They got a penalty, Caminati kicked for touch before rolling maul did the trick as Hamel grounded the ball.
Caminati converted to retake the lead 14-7.
The Simbas kept calm to claim a turnover in their 22 metre zone before eighth man Bethwell Anami collected the ball to sprint unchallenged for an overhead kick.
Okeyo sprinted to collect the ball and seal his double as Mukidza converted to level 14-14.
Asati set up Mukidza through from the ruck in Algeria’s five metres to score before converting his own try lead for the first time 21-14 at the break.
It took five minutes of the second half for Yousef to ground from a rolling maul before Caminati added the extras to level 21-21.
But the Simbas reclaimed the lead 24-21 when Kubu came off the bench to curl over a penalty.
Then some lovely handling from the backs led by Coulson created the leeway for Sifuna, who crushed through some tackles to score. Kubu’s boot put the score at 31-21.
The Lion Cubs went on attack as the Kenyans defended ferociously in the five metres zone.
It’s Megdoud, who sneaked through to score and bring the score to 31-26, before Okeyo sealed his double after completing Anami’s spadework as Kenya took a 10-point lead at 36-26.
A penalty try saw the Algerians trail by three points at 36-33, but the Simbas put up a solid defence to keep the marauding Lion Cubs at bay to sail through.