Zimbabwe’s dream of participating at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England were shattered after the team lost 23-15 to Russia in their one-off Repechage semi-final in Krasnoyarsk yesterday.
By our Staff
It was a tear-jerking defeat for the Sables who had travelled all the way to Siberia in a quest to keep alive hopes of joining hosts England, Australia, Wales and Fiji in Pool A at RWC 2015 after agonisingly missing out on automatic qualification in Madagascar last month.
Hosts fly half Yuri Kushnarev kicked a third minute penalty but then failed to add the extras to Igor Klyuchnikov’s try. A strong driving maul was stopped just short of the line, but the ball was swung wide for the full back to touch down.
A second try followed for Russia in the 23rd minute when a good break from Vasily Artemyev led to a period of pressure in the Zimbabwe 22, the pressure telling as wing Denis Simplikevich dived over in the corner to make it 13-0.
Zimbabwe fly half Guy Cronje missed his first attempt at goal in the 27th minute but the battling Sables were not to be denied though as two minutes later eighth man Lambert Groenewald charged through the defence with ease to race away and dot down under the posts.
Cronje converted the try to make it a six point game but then missed a second penalty attempt as Zimbabwe went into the break losing 13-07.
Cronje cut the deficit to 13-10 with a 48th-minute penalty but while he was off the field having a head-wound stitched, Russia made Brendan Dawson’s men pay for missing touch with a penalty.
The Bears attacked quickly and Artemyev sent Victor Gresev clear, the number 8 side-stepping the last defender to touch down.
Zimbabwe were given renewed hope when referee Nigel Owens sent Russian prop Andrei Igretsov to the sin-bin just before the hour mark, but replacement Lawrence Tambwera’s resulting penalty hit the post and then rebounded off his chasing team-mate’s knee to safety to the Bears’ relief.
Russia held firm while they were a man down and increased their lead with another Kushnarev penalty with six minutes to go.
Zimbabwe, though, battled to the end and were rewarded when wing Tafadzwa Chitokwindo received the ball deep in his own half and raced through the defence to touch down.
It was nothing more than a consolation score, though, as Zimbabwe’s hopes of reaching a first Rugby World Cup since 1991 ended in Siberia.