Zimbabwe . . . . . . . (11) 11
Belgium . . . . . . . . . (8) 28
ZIMBABWE slumped to their second consecutive defeat in the ongoing Emirates Airline Cup of Nations, going down to Belgium in a match in which Hong Kong referee Tobi Lothien hogged the limelight for the wrong reasons.
REPORT BY DANIEL NHAKANISO IN DUBAI,UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Lothien dished out four yellow cards and a red card in a game that hardly warranted such extreme measures and at one stage, the Sables were reduced to 12 players on the field.
Poor refereering aside, the Sables were their own worst enemy at times as they failed to close out the match, having put themselves in a very strong position against a very physical Belgian side.
For the second consecutive match, the Sables went to halftime in the lead, but crucially — also for the second match in succession —failed to score in the second half.
Zimbabwe went to the breather leading 11-8 through two penalties from flyhalf Tichafara Makwanya and a try right at the stroke of halftime through loose forward Takunda Chifokoyo.
Belgium had a try in the first half through Michael De Molder and a penalty from fullback Alan Williams.
While the Sables endured a barren second half, the Belgians managed to notch in three tries after the restart through Julien Massimi, Williams and a converted penalty try.
Sables coach Brendan Dawson was livid with the poor refereeing after the match, but admitted that his charges didn’t play to the best of their abilities.
“When we come to tournaments like these we expect the best officiating because we are all trying to develop our rugby. It’s high time the IRB gives us top referees at such tournaments.
“Away from the referring, I think we didn’t perform well today. We only played rugby in the last 10 minutes. If we had played the whole game like we did in the last ten minutes, it would have been a different story.”
The Sables got the match off to a great start after forcing the physical Belgians into making errors at the breakdowns which were punished by Makwanya.
Steered by a bullish forwards pack, Belgium began dominating the match with some powerful phases before De Molder crashed over at the corner.
Moments later, Williams, who had earlier missed the conversion, finally made amends after slotting home a penalty to give his side the lead at 6-8. With Belgium having a player in the sin bin for retaliation, Zimbabwe started dominating the match. The dominance paid off right at the stroke of halftime when Chifokoyo latched on to a loose ball at the back of a line-out to plant the Sables’ first try.
Belgium began the second half much stronger, using the rolling maul to great effect and Zimbabwe’s attempts to counter it only resulted in lock Jan Ferreira being sent to the sin bin for allegedly collapsing one of the mauls.
Centre Nic Winwood and lock Sanele was also sin binned, while Belgium had a player sent off for punching an opponent.
The numerical disadvantage affected the Sables’ rhythm, while working to great effect for the Belgians, who flourished with a further three tries to register their second successive victory in the tournament.