HONG KONG â€” Nathan Hirayama, celebrating his 50th World Series event, engineered a 17-14 win over Kenya in Canada’s opening game Friday at the Hong Kong Sevens.
The 29-year-old from Richmond, B.C., kicked a penalty from in front of the posts for the winning margin with no time remaining on the clock. Hirayama also took over sole possession of the Canadian rugby sevens points record at 980. He had come into the game tied with Phil Mack at 973.
Luke McCloskey and Harry Jones scored tries for Canada with Hirayama also providing two conversions. Dennis Ombachi and Nelson Oyoo replied with converted tries for Kenya.
Canada came into the tournament 10th in the overall standings after six events on the circuit. Kenya stands 12th.
The Canadians, who improved their career record against Kenya to 22-12-1, play Series leader South Africa and No. 11 France on Saturday. South Africa beat France 17-10 in the other Pool B game Friday.
Canada and Kenya honoured Hirayama at the start of the match, allowing him to run onto the field first. His teammates then joined him at centre field, enveloping him in a celebratory scrum.
Canada opened the scoring after a nice burst of speed from McCloskey down the flank following a scrum to lead 7-0 at halftime. Kenya replied early in the second half with a slashing run that sent Ombachi in under the posts.
Hirayama pulled the strings on a late go-ahead try, delivering an accurate grubber kick that Jones touched down after a Kenya penalty near its own goalpost.
The speedy Oyoo pulled Kenya even, accelerating past Canada captain John Moonlight and scoring under the posts with less than a minute remaining.
But, after the ensuing kickoff, an infraction at the breakdown in front of the Kenya posts proved to be the difference as Hirayama’s penalty drop kick went over.
Canadian coach Damian McGrath has included Saskatchewan Roughrider Tevaughn Campbell in his squad for the Hong Kong and Singapore stops on the circuit. The speedy defensive back, who has no rugby sevens experience, watched from the sidelines Friday.
The Canadian Press