BY Daniel Nhakaniso
ZIMBABWE U/20 . . . . . (6)26
IVORY COAST U/20 . . . (10)10
A RAMPANT second half performance by the Zimbabwe Under-20 rugby team saw them overcome a nervy start to beat Ivory Coast in the opening match of the Barthes U/20 Trophy at a rain-soaked Jubilee Field at Prince Edward School in Harare yesterday.
The victory ensured Young Sables qualified for Saturday’s final against Madagascar who beat Morocco in the other semi-final match and the winner of the match earning promotion to the top tier next year where the champions will book a place to the 2010 World Rugby Under-20 Trophy.
Buoyed by a bigger pack of forwards, Ivory Coast looked on course for an upset after capitalising on some uncharacteristic errors by the hosts in the first half.
The West Africans took the lead with an early penalty by flyhalf Siriki Traore before Zimbabwe hit back with a three pointer of their own by Tinashe Hombiro after 18 minutes.
With the Young Sables struggling at the breakdown and spending most of the opening periods on the backfoot, Ivory Coast took advantage to score the first five pointer after scrumhalf Abdou Aziz Konate capitalised on handling errors by the hosts in defence to dart over the try line in the 19th minute.
Traore slotted the conversion before exchanging penalties with Hombiro as the visitors led 10-6 at the break.
After a subdued first half, Zimbabwe came from the changing room a completely changed side running in three unanswered tries from Tabonga Ngonyamo, Allan Mawande and replacement flank Kelvin Kenenungo.
The Young Sables had to wait until the 49th minute to score their first try of the match through Ngonyamo.
Hombiro, who had missed the conversion, ensured Zimbabwe stretched their lead to four points with a penalty.
A 67th minute penalty by Mawande, following a free flowing move, ensured the Young Sables took a crucial 19-10 lead heading into the final 10 minutes before Kenenungo made the result certain with a conversion three minutes from time.
Young Sables coach Bob Mahari said he was impressed with his boy’s fighting spirit after initially getting off to a slow start.
“We had a very nervy start, you can’t prepare for a Test match and I think the boys realised that. We were, however, very confident and never lost our confidence. We spoke to the boys at halftime about understanding and remembering who we are and you saw what happened in the second half,” Mahari said.