Zimbabwe missed out on an opportunity to claim their first Zambezi Challenge title after succumbing to a narrow 19-17 loss against Germany in an absorbing final at Harare Sports Club on Sunday.
Despite a courageous fightback in the second half, which saw them score two tries before co-captain Godfrey Magaramombe failed to score a last-gasp winning try, the Cheetahs, were outplayed by Germany who deservedly won the competition.
Zimbabwe, spurred on by a vocal home crowd, were quick off the blocks in the decider as they scored an early try through Takudzwa Kumadiro before Ryan Musumhi’s conversion came off the outside of the upright post.
Germany responded with two quick tries and one conversion to lead 12-5 at the break before adding another converted try soon after the restart.
The Cheetahs, who won all their matches on their way to the Cup final, made fewer errors in the second half and finally managed to string a few moves together.
They grew in confidence and this allowed teenage sensation Edward Sigauke and Musumhi to cross the try line to leave the Cheetahs within two points.
Zimbabwe had opportunities to clinch the match at the death as the Germans struggled to adapt to the referee’s breakdown interpretation towards the end allowing the hosts to win a string of penalties after the hooter.
In the end, it was not to be for the home side as they were let down badly by the execution of their players, with Magaramombe the chief culprit after he was held up just shy of the try line after opting not to pass despite Zimbabwe having a significant overlap of players on the left-hand side.
The Cheetahs had earlier come from behind to scrape past Zambian side Red Arrows 15-12 in the semi-finals while Germany needed a 14-7 victory against defending champions Spartans to reach the final.
Red Arrows, who played some good rugby during the weekend atoned for their semi-final loss by dismissing Spartans 15-12 in the bronze medal match.
Zambian side KPF which is led by former Cheetahs captain Stephan Hunduza ran riot in the fifth-place playoff match as they secured a dominant 31-0 against the Cheetahs Academy.
Meanwhile, in the Women’s Championship final, Minerva emerged as the winners following a 33-5 win against Rocomamas.
The two sides were composed of players who are all part of the Lady Cheetahs’ setup as part of their preparations for next season.