Kenya’s Oscar Ayodi and Fiji’s Kitione Taliga put on a dazzling display at the HSBC Singapore Sevens – peak performances that scored them each 40 points and a share of the DHL Impact Player Award for the Southeast Asian tournament.
In a fitting end to a sensational weekend of rugby sevens, the two eventual Impact Players faced off in the Cup Final after remarkable semi-final victories. Fiji overcame a first-half deficit to beat South Africa. Kenja’s win over Argentina was just as dramatic, as Collins Injera kicks the game-winning goal in the closing seconds.
We were struggling for superlatives in the commentary box, it was extraordinary.Commentator Sean Maloney on Kenya’s Cup win
The drama continued into the Cup final as the underdog side blew out the series leaders 30-7 to lift their first Cup ever – a match that started more than unexpectedly with 20 unanswered points.
Ayodi’s goes big for Kenya
One thing’s for certain: the relentless drive of the Kenyan sevens team was a key feature in their first ever Cup victory on the series. And Ayodi epitomized that drive with some huge shifts against some of the series best teams. Dig into the stats and you will see that head coach Benjamin Ayimba used the center as a key ball carrier. He notched up 23 carries. But his all-round playing ability was also on display as he made four breaks, three offloads and ten tackles.
Head coach Benjamin Ayimba didn't make one substitution in the final until well into the second half, showing he was keen to get the most out of his players who were in great condition heading into the eighth round of the series.
Ayodi also scored two crucial tries over the weekend. The first came in their in their Cup quarter-final win against France and the second against Argentina in the Cup semi-final, a match that Kenya only won 15-12
Taliga on fire for Fiji
Fiji’s rising star is fast becoming one of the finest players on the sevens circuit with an abundance of skill, vision and clinical finishing. His performance in Singapore was nothing short of award worthy. And sharing the DHL Impact Player award with Ayodi comes after winning it at the HSBC Canada Sevens.
A dive into the details reveals that Taliga’s strength is on the attack with 19 carries, 6 breaks and 8 offloads in Singapore. In the Cup quarter-final against Australia, his two tries were the difference between winning and losing as Ben Ryan's side took a 19-14 victory.
In terms of players who impressed, well you can't look past Fiji’s Kitione Taliga.Sean Maloney
Taliga's performance is turning heads. And it certainly takes something special to shine on a team that is not short of playmakers. With the likes Osea Kolinisau, Jasa Veremalua and Savenaca Rawaca – who hold three of the top four spots on the DHL Performance Tracker – consistently leading the way, it says a lot of Taliga that he has been able to make his mark so quickly. Although his three teammates are the player with a shot at the DHL Impact Player Award for the series, Taliga will remain an impact player to watch.
DHL Performance Tracker – tight at the top
After eight rounds the top three players in the DHL Series Performance Tracker are separated by just one point, with Fiji's Osea Kolinisau leading the way. His massive 124 carries is what has put him at the top of the table.
Three Fijians remain in the top seven, while Seabelo Senatla is the only South African in the mix, just one point behind Kolinisau. Also worthy of mention is Russia's Vladimir Ostroushko who has consistently performed on the series to put himself in fifth place overall on 247 points.
HSBC Paris Sevens
From Singapore the HSBC Sevens World Series now travels to Europe for its final two stops in Paris and London. Round 9 kicks off on May 13. The pools have been drawn for the penultimate round, with the Singapore victors facing New Zealand, Portugal and Russia in Pool A and series leaders Fiji, runners-up in Singapore, meeting Samoa, Scotland and Wales in Pool B. The excitement is building as the series returns to one of the world’s most iconic cities for the first time since 2006. Be sure to follow the conversation on the Twitterverse with the hashtag #DHLImpactPlayer.
DHL is the Official Logistics Partner of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.