Team GB men’s rugby sevens crush Kenya and edge out Japan in strong Rio 2016 start

Competing together for the first time as a combined team Great Britain got off to a positive start in their rugby sevens campaign with two wins from two matches.

South west London residents Dan Bibby, Tom Mitchell and Marcus Watson played key roles as Team GB raced to the top of pool C.

Rugby sevens has been included as an Olympic event for the first time in Rio, and so far has proved a spectacular success.

From a British perspective, the women’s tournament ended in a sense of opportunity missed, with GB finishing a disappointing fourth after a bad defeat to Canada in the bronze playoff.

Kenya were first up for the GB men in what, on paper, was an awkward fixture.

Two penalty tries helped Britain race into a 12-0 lead against the Kenyan team, before Bibby crossed to put GB firmly in command. Another try opened up a 24-0 advantage at half time.

The scoring was less frequent after the interval, with an Odhiambo try putting Kenya on the board.

Nevertheless, it was a professional, composed display from Great Britain, and their superiority was underlined with another Bibby try to give Team GB a 31-7 victory.

Next up for GB were Japan.

Fresh from causing a huge upset by beating the mighty New Zealand in their opening game, the Japanese, with their quick, technical passing game, were a major obstacle to British hopes of topping the pool.

Team GB made another terrific start, producing two clinical finishes to convert their early dominance to a 14-0 lead.

Japan didn’t panic, however, and came roaring back at their opponents to level at 14-all.

It took Weybridge-resident Watson to settle British nerves, running in a crucial try from deep to seemingly decide the encounter.

Still Japan refused to yield.

Showing the famed Japanese spirit that took their 15-a-side team to a famous victory over South Africa in last years’ Rugby World Cup, they combined delightfully to allow Lemeki to cross deep into added time, to give themselves a conversion to force a draw.

Thankfully for a relived Great Britain, the kick was horribly screwed wide by Goya to hand the Brits a second victory by the narrowest of margins, 21-19.

In contrast, Wandsworth-based Captain Mitchell was solid off the boot throughout, his three successful conversions ultimately proving decisive.

Great Britain take on New Zealand next in the final pool C fixture at 4.30pm.

The formidable All-Blacks, who responded to their shock loss to Japan by thrashing Kenya, will look to put the embarrassment of the Japanese defeat behind them, but will have to do so without star man Sonny Bill Williams, who ruptured his Archilles and will miss the rest of the tournament.

A GB win will see them top the pool, but even defeat would likely see them through to the last eight as runners-up or as a best third-place side.

The quarter-finals also take place later, getting underway at 9.00pm.

Great Britain will be hoping to be one of the four nations still standing in the men’s rugby sevens at close of play, and if they can maintain the form they showed in their opening fixtures yesterday, they have every chance of more success today, and taking a further giant leap towards the medals.

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