Junior Sables win Craven Week opener

DURBAN - In the midst of a range of problems back home, the Junior Sables fought with their hearts on their sleeves to overcome Griquas Rural 9-16 in a thrilling encounter that went down to the wire here yesterday.

Chasing their first win at the U18 Coca-Cola Craven Week since 2013, the Old Mutual-bankrolled teenagers had remained at arm’s reach of Griquas Rural only by sheer brut and determination, somehow finding a way to cling on in the face of sustained pressure.

Their resilience was laid bare in the last minute of an intense match in which they had crawled back from 3-9 to tie 9-9 through some accurate kicking off the boot of centre Matthew Mcnab.

It seemed the match would end in a draw as the clock ticked to full time and the coaches’ bench helped with a small band of travelling parents urged the boys to kick the ball into touch to settle for a draw, after they won a line out deep in their own 22.

But against those expectations, the Stuart Dodington-captained side went with their gut.

They won the line out and ran the ball down the line before Peter Davis, who until then had not received clean ball the entire match, finished off a sizzling move.

The Falcon College wing turned on the after burners running half the length of the field to dive over for the winner with Mcnab stepping up to add the extra points.

That character won the admiration of the side’s coach Godwin Murambiwa.

“We defended for 70 minutes and we were so much under pressure before half time and right at the end. But the guts to run from your own try line to score a try was just phenomenon,” Murambiwa said.

“We are happy we have finally won. Everyone back home was waiting for this win.”

Although gracious for the win, Murambiwa was under no illusion that Zimbabwe played a perfect game.

“I thought we were very good in defence but we didn't play as well as we could have. We had no pattern. We were not as efficient as we could have been at the rucks, disappointed from that perspective,” he said, adding:

“But it's the character of this team that is commendable.”

With the Zimbabwe rugby fraternity desperate for some dose of good news following the Sables humiliating defeat at the hands of Kenya, perhaps one of the worst backline performances in recent memory, the Junior Sables started off brightly.

They raced into a three-point lead courtesy of Falcon College’s Mcnab, following a penalty deep into Griquas Rural’s half.

Zimbabwe would play the rest of the half second fiddle to the Stefan van Wyk coached side, who were superior at the breakdown and looked threatening every time they had ball in hand.

Fly-half Iwan Lombard was exceptional from the kicking tee helping his side go to the half time break leading 9-3.

Griquas could have easily sealed victory on numerous occasions in the second half but missed what looked an easy penalty and fumbled near the try box to leave the game wide open.

In the end, it seemed the stars were aligned for Zimbabwe as the side got their 53rd U18 Coca Cola Youth Week tournament campaign off to a winning start.

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