BY SPORTS REPORTER
ZIMBABWE’S hopes of securing core status on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series suffered a major blow after the Cheetahs lost their opening two matches against in the pool stages of the qualifying tournament in Hong Kong yesterday.
With the winner of the 12-team qualifier being promoted to next season’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, the Cheetahs needed to win at least two matches in the pool stages to progress to today’s knockout stages.
Zimbabwe’s campaign, however, got off to a disastrous start after succumbing to a disappointing 29-12 defeat to Tonga in their opening Pool E encounter at the Hong Kong Stadium.
The Cheetahs were on the backfoot almost immediately, as they struggled in defence, allowing Tonga to run in three tries in the first half, while managing one conversion to take a 17-0 lead at the break.
Although Zimbabwe fought back with tries by captain Stephan Hunduza and Tapiwa Tsomondo, Tonga scored two more tries to secure a comfortable victory.
After the disappointing start, the Cheetahs faced a make or break tie against hosts Hong Kong, but in the end it was yet another disappointing result, as they wasted a 7-0 lead to go down 14-7 in a tightly contested encounter.
Riaan O’Neil gave Zimbabwe a positive start with an early converted try, but Hong Kong came back with a try from Cado Lee Ka-to before Raef Morrison hit his stride to score the second try with less than two minutes left.
Zimbabwe play their final group game against Philippines today, with nothing more than pride at stake.