BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE’S national rugby sevens side ended their campaign in the World Rugby Sevens Repechage in Monaco with an impressive 26-17 win over Tonga on Sunday, but it was in vain as they missed out on qualification to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The Cheetahs, who were fielding an inexperienced squad, missing several seasoned players, needed to win the final qualifying tournament to book the remaining ticket to next month’s Olympic Games.
In the end, the Daniel Hondo-coached side missed out on a place in the knockout stages of the competition after finishing fifth on the final rankings out of nine participating nations.
Ireland secured the 12th and final place in the men’s sevens competition at the Tokyo Games courtesy of a 28-19 victory over France in the final of the World Rugby Sevens Repechage at the Stade Louis II in Monaco.
Samoa and Hong Kong finished tied for third position ahead of fifth-placed Zimbabwe.
The Cheetahs were in the same group with the eventual tournament winners, Ireland, who beat them 33-10 in their Pool A match on Saturday.
The Cheetahs had begun their campaign with an impressive 21-0 win over Mexico in the first match of the qualifier on Friday evening.
Their hopes of reaching the semifinals went up in smoke when their next two Pool A against the eventual tournament winners Ireland as well as semi-finalists Samoa (33-7) at Stade Louis II in Monaco on Saturday.
This meant they finished the day in third place in Pool A with five points and a points’ difference of minus 26 ahead of their final match against Tonga on Sunday.
With only the top two teams in each of the two pools progressing to the semi-finals, the two defeats on Saturday meant Zimbabwe bowed out of contention for a place in the last four as they could not overtake Ireland or Samoa.
Although their fate had already been sealed before the start of the final day of the tournament, the Cheetahs still managed to end their Pool A campaign at the Men’s Rugby Sevens Olympics final qualifier on a bright note when they defeated Tonga 26-17 on Sunday.
The Cheetahs conceded two quick tries which saw them 10-0 down early into the contest against the Pacific Ocean Islanders.
While Zimbabwe missed out on the final ticket to the Olympic Games, Hondo and his young side will have every reason to look to the future with high hopes after putting on a commendable effort.
There were also some impressive performances from players such as Kudzai Mashawi, Ryan Musumhi, Sam Phiri, Godknows Mavara after they were listed among the best performers at the tournament by
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