Kenya have been a mainstay on the HSBC SVNS and are aiming to return at the first opportunity following their relegation to the Challenger last year, and they got off to the perfect start with victory in Dubai.
They were made to work for the gold medal in a hard fought final win over Chile which finished 12-5. Earlier in the day Kenya had beaten Uruguay 21-5 in the semi-final while Chile reached the final thanks to a 15-7 win over previously unbeaten Germany.
Uruguay, who alongside Kenya will showcase their skills at the Olympic Games Paris 2024, recovered from semi-final defeat to claim the bronze medal with a 12-7 defeat of Germany.
China were the dominant force in the women’s competition and secured gold with a 19-5 win over Kenya in the final, gaining revenge for their 17-12 loss to the same opposition in Friday’s pool match.
China has earlier cruised into the final thanks to a 45-5 thrashing of Uganda in the semi-final, while Kenya saw off Argentina by 17-0 in the second semi-final. Argentina were impressive throughout the weekend and claimed the bronze thanks to a 36-10 win over Uganda.
Amid ecstatic celebrations in front of the large contingent of supporters, Kenya co-captain Tony Omondi said: “We are super happy. We knew this Challenger event in Dubai was very crucial for us to start on a high and now we must carry on with the momentum until the last tournament.”
“It was a tough final today. Chile was a tough, physical opponent so we had to match them in all aspects and it came out good for us. We must also congratulate our ladies team as well, every game they played before us gave us the inspiration, so we had to deliver and thanks to them we are going back home with two medals.”
China women’s player Chen Keyi said: “We are happy and so proud of our girls and the way we played to our standards. Kenya is a very physical team so I’m proud of our tackling and how hard we worked for each other. We hope we can keep learning, keep playing to our way and keep winning in the next tournaments.”
There is more to play for than ever before in this year’s Challenger with the competition expanded to three rounds and the top four placed men’s and women’s teams qualifying for the new promotion and relegation play-off competition at the HSBC SVNS 2024 Grand Final in Madrid.
World Rugby Chief Competitions and Performance Officer Nigel Cass reflected on a highly successful start to the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Challenger 2024: “The opening round of the Challenger in Dubai was a great advert for the increasing competitiveness and global growth of rugby sevens. With highly competitive matches throughout, no unbeaten teams and semi-finalists from four different continents, it was a great demonstration of the potential for sevens to continue to evolve and excite fans around the world on the road to the Olympic Games Paris 2024.”
“I would like to thank the Dubai organisers for hosting an excellent event on and off the pitch and extend my congratulations to Kenya and China, and to all teams who contributed to such a high quality event, which has taken the Challenger to a new level of competitiveness and performance. We look forward to next round in Montevideo and to seeing which four men’s and women’s teams ultimately qualify for the SVNS promotion-relegation play-off in Madrid in June.”
The Challenger tournaments replicate the Olympic Games competition format, with the 12 teams drawn into three pools of four teams each. The top two from each pool as well as the two best third-placed finishers will qualify for the knockout stages with quarter-finals and
The Challenger was introduced in February 2020 to boost the development of rugby sevens across the globe and provide a clear promotion pathway to reach the top level of global rugby sevens for the short format of the game which has experienced huge growth over the past two decades since the introduction of the global sevens series and becoming an Olympic sport at the Rio 2016 Games.
The bigger and better than ever 2024 edition of the Challenger consists of three rounds. Following the opener in Dubai the men’s and women’s teams now move on to Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo, Uruguay on 8-10 March before standalone women’s and men’s events at Henryk Reyman’s Municipal Stadium in Krakow, Poland and Dantestadion in Munich, Germany respectively on 18-19 May.
Fans around the globe can watch the action on RugbyPass.TV.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Rugby.