Zimbabwe . . . . . . . . . . . . (14) 14
Samoa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (7) 21
ZIMBABWE put on a spirited display in their opening IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens encounter against Samoa, but it was not enough as they still went down 21-14 at the Luzhniki Stadium yesterday.
The Cheetahs, as the national sevens side is affectionately known, were the livelier of the two sides in the first half and were duly rewarded as they went for the breather with a slender 14-7 lead.
Skipper Jacques Leitao got the Cheetahs’ opening try after bursting through the heart of the Samoans’ defence to plant the opening try under the posts in the third minute.
It was Leitao’s third career try at the Rugby World Cup Sevens. Tangai Nemadire easily slotted home the conversion to ensure Zimbabwe got the best possible start.
The Samoans, however, hit back immediately with a converted try of their own through Alatasi Tupou two minutes later.
It seemed as if the two teams would head for the breather deadlocked at seven points apiece ,but the Cheetahs took the lead right before the stroke of halftime through a converted try from Gardner Nechironga.
Fortune Chipendo was involved in the buildup before releasing Leitao, whose pass was almost knocked on by Nechironga before the gangly utility back quickly recovered to manage a kick and chase to score the try right at the end of the half.
While the Cheetahs were impressive in the opening half it was a different case after the breather as they let themselves down with too many unforced errors.
The Samoans took advantage of the sloppiness and managed two converted tries after the break, the first coming Alatasi Tupou soon after the restart before Faatoina Autagavaia gave his side the lead for the first time in the match.
With their noses in front, the Pacific Islanders tactifully slowed down play, but were almost made to pay when scrumhalf Kilvan Magunje almost scored a last minute try only to be denied by some spirited defending from Samoa.
The Cheetahs will be hoping to bounce back from the poor start when they take on Kenya in their second Pool C match against Kenya this morning (0722 Zimbabwe time) before taking on the Phillipines (1124)
Kenya started their campaign with an impressive 45-5 victory over Philippines yesterday.