Just when Zimbabwe thought they had done the hard work to secure the African ticket to Rio, Dennis Ombachi broke their hearts with a try right at the end to the death to ensure the East Africans book their place in the Olympics.
It was an exciting final which could have gone either way, but the Kenyans, who play on the Sevens World Series, made that count although Zimbabwe will still feel that this was their best ever opportunity to beat their much more fancied opponents.
The Kenyans were the first to score when skipper Andrew Amonde shrugged off the challenge of Njabulo Ndlovu and Eden Agero slotted the conversion to put Shujaa 7-0 up.
Zimbabwe got their first try in the seventh minute through their most outstanding player, wing Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, who crossed the whitewash following a huge overlap. Lenience Tambwera missed the conversion kick.
Riaan O’Neill then showed great courage in scoring the second try for the Cheetahs right before the half-time break when he took the Kenyan defence head-on for the touchdown. This time Tambwera converted the kick taking the Cheetahs to the interval with a 12-7 lead.
However, Kenya regained the lead three minutes before the end of the match through Collins Injera, who outpaced the Zimbabwean defence to score under the posts before making the conversion kick.
A moment of pure brilliance from Chitokwindo saw him sprint from his own half to score a try, whose conversion was missed by Tambwera, giving Zimbabwe a 17-14 lead.
With the fulltime hooter having gone off to signal the end of the match, the game took another turn.
Graham Kaulback kicked the ball deep into the Kenyan half with the hope of shutting the opposition in their own half, but the Kenyans managed to keep the ball alive, shipped it over to Ombachi, who beat the Zimbabwean defence for pace to score for victory.
To make it to the final, the Cheetahs had defeated Nigeria 31-10 in the quarter-finals and routed Morocco 26-0 in the semi-finals.
Kenya hammered Madagascar 43-0 in the quarter-finals and saw off Tunisia 43-12 in the last four.
In the quarter-final game, Nigeria were first to score against Zimbabwe a minute before the break when Samuel Ekpo outpaced Tambwera and O’Neill to score. Azeez Ladipo missed the conversion kick.
The Cheetahs took the lead just before the break with Tambwera planting the ball over the line despite being challenged. Boyd Rouse’s successful conversion put Zimbabwe 7-5 ahead.
With less than a minute played in the second half, Tambwera crossed the whitewash for his second try only for Rouse to miss the conversion.
Zimbabwe’s star player Chitokwindo burst through to score but Rouse again missed the conversion. Skipper Leitao picked up the fourth try of the match and Rouse’s conversion made it 24-5.
Nigeria had their second try of the match through Omotohunola Odulaja, who squeezed through, but Ladipo’s kicking let him down again as he missed the conversion.
Kilvan Magunje benefited from a long pass by Rouse to score right at the end with the conversion booted in for a great win for Zimbabwe.
In the semi-finals, Zimbabwe’s first try came from Stephan Hunduza after a lovely exchange between him and Chitokwindo. Leitao chipped in with the second try and Tambwera complemented with a conversion for a 12-0 halftime lead.
Leitao got his second try and Tambwera’s conversion put the Cheetahs 19-0 ahead. Manasah Sita delivered the fourth set of five points and Kaulback converted to complete the rout.