Tunisia held off a late Senegalese surge to come out 26 – 18 victors in Monastir.
The victory moved them one place above Zimbabwe to finish 4th overall and complete a tremendous turnaround to save a season that was destined for a total wreck.
The North Africans whose senior players sat out their first 2 heavy defeats to Kenya and Namibia, regrouped and mounted a reparation of their season when they picked up their very first points with a win in Harare last week.
Both teams started the game well with the home side enjoying most of the possession but failing to find the try line. However, all the pressure was forcing the Senegalese to infringe within Chamseddine Khalifa’s strike zone.
By the 35th minute, mark he had slotted in 4 goals to give his side a 12 – 0 lead.
Senegal would get on the scoreboard for the first time in the 38th minute mark when number 12 Aldric Folliot slotted in a long range penalty goal.
As was the case in Harare last week, Tunisia struck back immediately following a mistake at the restart by the visitors.
After Senegal failed to control the kick off, the home side ran a couple of phases which led them into the opposition’s 22.
Fullback Sabri Gmir went on a wavy run after receiving a long pass from flyhalf Nejemeddine Khalifa. He attracted 3 Senegalese defenders near the touchline that allowed him to release his number 8 Abdelmajid Zemzem who was running a beautiful line back inside to touch down for the first try of the game.
Chamseddine Khalifa added the extras to leave the scores at 19 – 3 going into the break.
The second half started with Tunisia pressing again and at the 46th min Tunisia scored their second try, right wing Chadi Jabri dotting down after a quick shifting of the ball by the Tunisians.
Khalifa added the extras to leave the hosts with a healthy 26 – 3 lead.
The home side seemed to lose their structure when they started playing laterally, carelessly throwing the ball around. This loose play resulted in Senegal getting possession of the ball in the 49th minute.
Senegal pounced on a wayward pass from a Tunisian player and in an effort to try to get the ball back, the Tunisians went off their feet at the ensuing ruck, which the referee penalised them for.
Senegal quick tapped and shipped the ball wide to find winger Georges Pompidou Mendy who scored in the corner.
Folliot missed the conversion to leave the scores at 26 – 8
Mendy would again get on the score sheet in the 69th minute after some nice interplay from the backs.
From a lineout in Tunisia’s 22, outside centre Cheikhou Danfakha did some nice work when he broke the line and found his fullback Mamadou Ndiaye who had the simple task of offloading it to Mendy to run in for the score.
Folliot’s conversion was good.
4 minutes later Folliot cut the lead shorter when he successfully kicked for goal for a score of 26 – 18.
For the first time in the game, with all the momentum, it was suddenly looking like Senegal could successfully mount a comeback and score twice to win the game, but the home side got themselves together and saw the game out.
The result confirmed Senegal’s relegation to the Rugby Africa Silver Cup and with that ending their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup in 2019.