Zimbabwe Sables secured a hard fought 28-16 victory over Senegal in Dakar on Saturday to go top of the Africa Gold Cup table.
Sables tries from Hilton Mudariki, Stephan Hunduza and a Takudzwa Kumadiro brace, were enough to give the visiting side the all-important victory in the first game of the season for both sides.
The visitors did not have it all their way in this game especially in the first half where the hosts dominated proceedings.
Senegal who were clearly bigger and stronger, bullied Zimbabwe in the contact area, with the Sables struggling to make their first time tackles.
One such example of this came only a minute and a half into the game when gigantic flyhalf Aldric Folliot carried with him several would be Sables tacklers for a strong surge to Zimbabwe’s line to set up a ruck. The ball was quickly moved to their massive hooker Sadio Traore who went in under the posts but the referee ruled him to have been held up after some fine scrambling in defence by Zimbabwe flyhalf Tichafara Makwanya and centre Ngoni Stoney Chibuwe.
Penalties between kickers from both sides were exchanged leaving the score at 3 all until the half hour mark when the game registered its first try. The score came from a nice build-up of phases by Senegal into Zimbabwe’s 22.
Traore picked up the ball from the base of the ruck to make a Jonah Lomu esque carry that left Zimbabwean bodies littered on the ground as he charged his way to the try line for the score.
Folliot converted to make it 10-3.
Senegal continued to trouble Zimbabwe’s defence with some direct running. With the visitors backpedalling, the pressure proved too much for the Sables who infringed at the breakdown causing the referee to reach into his pocket for a yellow card and give experienced second row Fortune Chipendu time in the bin for a professional foul.
Folliot stepped up to extend the lead to 13-3 with 5 minutes left in the half.
Despite their struggles at the contact point, Zimbabwe were enjoying some dominance in the scrums, where veteran Denford Mutamangira and Lawrence Cleminson controlled proceedings. One such scrum led to nice interchange passes from the backs to get Zimbabwe in a good position. The pressure resulted in a penalty being awarded to the visitors.
Makwanya slotted it in to leave the scores at 13-6 going into the shed.
Senegal seemed to start the 2nd half with the same dominance as the 1st, probing at Zimbabwe’s line with real intent. The Sables initially defended really well but the pressure eventually overwhelmed them and the referee was forced to reach into his pocket to issue Zimbabwe their second yellow card. Centre Lenience Tambwera getting his marching orders to the naughty boys chair for an offside offense.
Despite their obvious dominance, Senegal were failing to show anything for it on the scoreboard and it would be the Sables that would score next for their first try of the game.
Senegal kicked an aimless kick straight into the hands of elusive fullback Taddy Dzandiwanzira, who ran the ball back to set up a ruck for quick ball to Hunduza who made some good yardage. Mudariki was quick to get to the breakdown to recycle the ball to Chibuwe who nicely shifted it to Makwanya.
Makwanya then passed it on to a supporting Pritchard on his inside, the backrower showed good awareness to get the ball back on the outside for Kumadiro to score a really well worked try.
The try was a great example of why basics are imperative, as it was a carbon copy of the 3 on 2 drill scenarios that are often practised on the training field.
Makwanya missed the conversion, to leave the scores at 13-11.
After the restart, a mistake by Senegal gifted Kumadiro possession and the winger was quick to link up with openside, Bisele Tshamala who then freed up halfback Mudariki in support for a fine score to put Zimbabwe in the lead for the first time in the game.
Senegal levelled the scores at 16 all with a penalty goal, but it would be Zimbabwe who would score again.
Dzandiwanzira and Kumadiro in tandem showed their blistering pace on the sideline. The conditioning of players at this stage of the game was starting to prove the difference, with this particular run and score perhaps showing exactly why this game was running away from Senegal.
Dzandiwanzira, on the sideline, simply ran past the big number 10 Folliot, before offloading to Kumadiro. Folliot, who would not look out of place in the frontrow, was in a good position to make the tackle especially being a back, but could hardly get his fingertips let alone a hand on the pacey fullback to prevent the offload that resulted in the try.
The Sables had the last say in the match, with Hunduza again exploiting a tired and a now lethargic Senegalese defence wall to score in between the sticks for a final score of 28-16.
Zimbabwe now lead the Africa Gold Cup table after one round of matches with favourites Namibia and Tunisia yet to kickstart their campaigns. Earlier in the day, Kenya and Uganda had played a thrilling 33 all draw at the RFUEA Grounds Nairobi to also get their season underway.
Zimbabwe: 15 Tadius Dzandiwandira, 14 Takudzwa Kumadiro, 13 Ngoni Chibuwe, 12 Lenience Tambwera, 11 Stephan Hunduza, 10 Tich Makwanya, 9 Hilton Mudariki, 8 Osbourne Muhambi, Bisele Tshamala, 6 Connor Pritchard, 5 Witness Mandizha, 4 Fortune Chipendu, 3 Lawrence Cleminson, 2 Tol Zishe, 1 Denford Mutamangira ©
Replacements: 16 Graham Cochrane, 17 Irvine Nduwo, 18 Brian Nyaude, 19 Takudzwa Mandiwanza, 20 Scotty Jones, 21 Tinashe Gwisai, 22 Tarisai Mugariri, 23 Takudzwa Bvunzawabaya
Senegal: 15, Jonathan Courtinard, 14 Mamadou Ndiaye, 13 Cheikhou Danfakha, 12 Mathieu Boscaro, 11 Moussa Barry, 10 Aldric Folliot, 9 Romain Fieret, 8 Albekarim Fofana, 7 Lamine Sylla, 6 Felix Mandy, 5 Babacounta Faye, 4 Omar Sy, 3 Jeremy Fickou, 2 Sadio Traore 1 Antoine Laporte Replacements: 16 Moustapha Ndiaye, 17 Mamadou Diagne Seck, 18 Abou Sall, 19 Lewis Karaba, 20 Mokhtar Sougoufara, 21 Pompidou Mendy, 22 Ababacar Niang, 23 Boubakar Diabira
Credit : Kyros Sport