Junior Sables off to winning start in Barthes Trophy title defence

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Edward Sigauke (right) celebrates with his captain Benoni Nhekairo after scoring his first try for the Zimbabwe Under-20 rugby team against Tunisia at Harare Sports Club on Saturday. Image Credit: Kyros Sports

Zimbabwe kicked off their Rugby Africa Under-20 Barthes Trophy title defence on a winning note when they disposed of Tunisia 46-21 (19-11 at halftime) in a thrilling encounter at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.

The Junior Sables showed grit to grind out the win after holding off a spirited comeback by the Tunisians towards the end of the first half and early in the second half.

At times it was a scrappy affair for the Zimbabwean side, especially early in the first half, which was riddled with unforced errors and penalties.

In the end, the Junior Sables, who are seeking a record third successive continental title proved too strong for their opponents as they ran in six tries.

Speedy centre Edward Sigauke, who has been honing his skills at the Sharks Academy in Durban, led the charge with a brace of tries to add to other five pointers from Shammah Jackson, Allan Mawunga, Emmanuel Magutakuona and Tatenda Runyowa.

Captain Benoni Nhekairo also enjoyed a successful afternoon with the boot as he weighed in with 16 points from two penalties and five conversions.

It was however not all smooth sailing for the hosts, as Tunisia threatened to silence the vocal home crowd by taking an early lead from a penalty converted by their flyhalf Mohamed Missaoui before Zimbabwe responded through tries from Mawunga and Sigauke to take a 19-11 lead at halftime.

The Tunisians, who played in the familiar colors of local rugby giants Old Hararians after their luggage was lost on their journey to Southern Africa did well to stay in the contest as they scored two tries through Mohamed Aziz Ksouri and a brace from lock Ayeb Wissem while Missaoui added three conversions.

Spurred on by the home crowd Zimbabwe were ultimately too strong for the Tunisians as they secured the victory which took them to the top of the four-team points table ahead of Kenya, who survived a late comeback by Namibia to claim a 34-28 win in the opening match of the tournament.

 

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