Junior Sables in routine loss

HARARE - Zimbabwe suffered their third straight defeat in Group A at the ongoing World Rugby U20 Trophy after going down 22-42 to Fiji yesterday.

The only positive the Junior Sables can take from yesterday’s performance is that they managed to restrict Fiji from reaching a half century on the scoreboard.

Brendon Brider’s side came into the match after having suffered huge losses to Samoa (54-24) and Uruguay (50-22) mainly due to poor decision making and schoolboy errors.

Yesterday, it was a similar case as the South Pacific islanders made Zimbabwe pay for their elementary mistakes.

Hooker Vuniani Mokalou planted the first try for Fiji after only five minutes which was converted by fullback Jone Naporu.

Zimbabwe responded immediately through a try by flank Connor Pritchard seven minutes later.

The Junior Sables captain finished off a move which was created by a good break by scrumhalf Takudzwa Gamanya, who side-stepped two Fiji players before a clean offload to his teammate.

Instead of building on that momentum, Zimbabwe’s game plan went off the rails.

The Junior Sables players began going down easily and lost possession at contact with the Fijians.

The hosts were also committing a lot of bodies at the ruck but still failed to secure the ball and from there on Fiji were finding it easy to poke holes in their opponents defence.

The South Pacific islanders scored three mores tries through centre Filimoni Savou, eighthman Liam James Narruhn and flank Savenaca Tabaiwalu.

Naqoru converted two of his kicks to give his side a 30-6 lead towards the halftime break.

Even a yellow card to Fiji second centre Aminiasi Nasalasala three minutes before the break failed to inspire the Junior Sables comeback.

In the second period, the South Pacific islanders allowed the Junior Sables to have more possession but did not surrender any territory.

Throughout the tournament, Fiji have always faded towards midway in the second period and in the 64th minute Zimbabwe scored their second try of the game.

The Junior Sables showed some patience as the swung the ball from the right to left just outside the Fiji five-metre line allowing lock Kudakwashe Ndoro to cross the whitewash near the sticks.

Kudzaishe Munangi easily converted to make it a 16-point game.

Sensing danger and a possible Zimbabwe comeback, Fiji ventured forward and scored a try of their own through the sheer power of replacement centre Selesitino Kalounivale.

Zimbabwe’s Justin Mendelsohn, who had replaced  prop Tanaka Chikwezvero, raised the ceiling at the venue when he dived over to score a try which was converted by Munangi with eight minutes left.

The Junior Sables comeback could not materialise as they had left it too late and it was Fiji, who had the final say as replacement hooker Wame Waqanaceva reacted quickly to ground the ball down after the hosts had lost possession at a ruck inside their own five-metre line.

Zimbabwe assistant coach Bob Mahari felt his side lacked the mental strength to stand up to the Fijians.

“We showed a bit of effort...actually we didn’t close out the game as we could; we made too many mistakes but we were in the game. It’s been the story of this tournament,” he said.

“I guess as much as we do physical exercises; we have got to do mental exercises as well. Clearly, we are struggling to stay focused at the task at hand.”    

Zimbabwe, who finished last in their group without a single point, will now play against Hong Kong, who also finished last in their pool, in the seventh place play-off final on Sunday.

Samoa reached Sunday’s final after a comprehensive 56-22 victory over Uruguay.

The Baby Manu will now meet Group B winners Spain.

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