Wellington – England snatched a 24-19 victory in extra time over emerging rugby power Kenya to claim the fourth round of the IRB Sevens World Series in a cliffhanger showdown at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
With regulation time up, and novice finalists Kenya clinging to a 19-12 lead, it looked as if the Sevens series in New Zealand was about to see its biggest upset.
However, yellow cards had reduced Kenya to five men allowing England flyer Christian Lewis-Pratt to capitalise on the two-man advantage with a converted try which levelled the scores.
Two minutes into extra time Sam Edgerley crossed for the winning try but the after-match focus was more on Kenya's growing reputation as a Sevens force than England's victory.
Kenya, who knocked series leaders New Zealand out of the semi-finals, have made huge strides in Sevens rugby after reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in Dubai four years ago.
In the current world series, under new coach and former England mentor Mike Friday, they finished fourth in Australia and third in Dubai before breaking through to the finals here.
“The Kenyan team were incredible. It's one of the toughest games I've ever played in. The physical limits were pushed beyond today,” England captain Mike Powell said.
“Kenya were outstanding,” added England coach Ben Ryan.
“I didn't expect them to beat New Zealand. They've got a lot of passion. They play a simple game – high energy. Mike's given them cohesion and to get to a final here was an outstanding job for them.”
The first four legs of the series have now produced four different tournament winners with Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand all claiming earlier rounds.
New Zealand, who lead the series, failed to make the final and had to be content with beating Samoa 17-7 in the play-off for third.
In the semi-finals, England and Kenya both had to come from behind with Kenya requiring extra time to beat New Zealand who led 14-0 at half-time.
Second half tries to Oscar Ouma and Collins Injera, converted by Biko Adema, brought Kenya level by the end of regulation time with Ouma scoring the match-winner 42 seconds into extra time.
England beat Samoa 21-19 in their dramatic semi-final after trailing 0-12 early in the match.
They recovered to lead 14-12, following two converted tries by Lewis-Pratt, and stretched the lead to 21-12 early in the second spell when Marcus Watson scored while Samoan playmaker Alatasi Tupou was in the sin bin.
Lio Lolo scored and converted a late try for Samoa but their hopes of a comeback were dashed when they lost their own lineout throw on fulltime.
Australia beat Scotland 22-7 to win the plate final while the bowl final was won by Canada with a 28-19 win over Fiji. – Sapa-AFP