Nairobi — The Under-20 Barthes Trophy defending champions Zimbabwe put on a clinical performance at a packed Nyayo Stadium on Sunday evening to defeat hosts and crowd-favorite Kenya 28-7.
Zimbabwe had shown intent to defend their title from the word go with convincing thrashings Ivory Coast and Tunisia, 55-0 and 60-6 respectively.
On their part, Kenya had to go through neighbors Uganda 44-20 and Namibia 24-13 to get to the final. Both teams came into this game having booked a ticket to the Junior World Trophy set to be played in July in Nairobi. Bragging rights were however on the line and Zimbabwe wanted it more.
The game quickly got out of hand for Kenya as Zimbabwe’s sleek rugby skills and running saw them race to a 14-0 lead before Kenya responded with a converted try from captain Laban Kipsang’ to half the deficit.
Namibia would however respond with another converted try from a counter-attack to take the scores to 21-7, a lead they held to the break.
The second half was made much more interesting when the heavens fully opened and a wet playing surface saw an increase in handling errors. This would see the game stay scoreless for the better part of the half.
Zimbabwe would then burst into life in the last 10 minutes, first going over only to be denied after a TMO review and then going over immediately from the ensuing clearance kick to claim the game, 28-7 at full time.
Kenyan captain Laban Kipsang’ rued his teams’ slow reaction in defense but promised that his charges will be ready for the Junior World Trophy come July having learned from their mistakes.
On his part, Zimbabwe coach Shaun De Souza expressed his joy after his charges retained the title. “It is funny because last year when we came, we were building for this year. We went all the way last year, so that was a bonus but this year we really wanted to win it.”
On their way to the final, Zimbabwe did not concede any try, only Kenya managing to break their compact defense in the final. Captain Panashe Zuze believes it is down to teamwork. “The boys showed up for the game, we only conceded one try in three games which I think is some sort of a record so I am happy with the boys,” says Zuze.
The two teams will be Africa’s representatives at the Junior World Trophy in July.