Namibia chalked up their third consecutive bonus-point victory in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup with a 63-7 win over Morocco in Casablanca on Saturday to remain firmly on course for a fourth straight title and a place in Pool B at Rugby World Cup 2019.
The weekend's other match was anything but one-sided, though, with Kenya having to come from behind in a high-scoring encounter in Nairobi to beat Zimbabwe 45-36.
Seven-time champions Namibia top the Gold Cup standings on 15 points with the second-placed Simbas seven points in arrears but having played one game less.
The 2018 Gold Cup also serves as the region's qualification tournament for RWC 2019 with the champions going through to Japan as Africa 1 and the runner-up taking part in the global repechage later this year.
Morocco 7-63 Namibia
Janco Venter, Cliven Loubser and Justin Newman scored a brace of tries apiece as Namibia backed up earlier victories against Uganda and Tunisia with another clinical performance.
Fly-half Loubser converted both his own tries and six others in an immaculate display of goal-kicking for a personal haul of 26 points.
Tight-head prop Johannes Coetzee scored the first of five first-half tries for Namibia with number eight PJ van Lill and flanker Venter next to cross. Winger Newman then got in on the act with two tries in the space of eight minutes.
Despite losing Bilal Dikhal to a 45th-minute red card, Morocco battled gamely and they were rewarded with a try for winger Karim Qadiri shortly after they had conceded a penalty try.
Unfortunately for the North Africans, they were unable to breach the Welwitschias' defence again and Loubser’s brace, either side of Venter’s second, took the winning margin past 50.
Speaking after the match, Namibia captain Johan Deysel said: “We knew they’d be physical and we’d have to match them there. We did a good job, and I think we were lucky to get the five points. We got here on Tuesday and we prepared well, even though travelling long-distance is hard. Congrats to Morocco for a good game and for playing with a good spirit.”
Kenya 45-36 Zimbabwe
Captain Davis Chenge led from the front with a hat-trick of tries as Kenya produced a late rally to see off Zimbabwe at the RFUEA Grounds in Nairobi.
Chenge bagged his treble inside the first 18 minutes as the Simbas cruised into a 33-17 lead, but Zimbabwe responded magnificently after the break to score 19 unanswered points and they were on the verge of a causing an upset until the home side unloaded their bench and scored two late tries.
The number eights dominated the scoring in the opening quarter with Chenge’s hat-trick accompanied by a score from his opposite number Tapfuma Parirenyatna. While Darwin Mukidza converted all three of Kenya’s tries, Lenience Tambwera was off target with his attempt – the first of three misses for the Sables fly-half on a poor afternoon with the boot.
Following Tony Onyango’s unconverted effort for Kenya, prop Denford Mutamangira marked his 50th appearance for the Sables with a try, and this time Tambwera was able to add the extras.
When Zimbabwe lost second-row Fortunate Chipendo to a 35th-minute yellow card and conceded a penalty try, the game swung firmly in Kenya’s favour. However, once restored to their full complement of players Zimbabwe pulled back five points on the stroke of half-time when hooker David Makanda crashed over.
Kenya’s 33-16 lead lasted just 14 minutes of the second half with prop Faria Mudariki and winger Mathew McIvab scoring unconverted tries and a penalty try awarded in between.
The Simbas’ response was to bring on six replacements, including test debutant Dallo Chituyi, and their impact was soon felt with the visitors coming under increased pressure. It took a while for their defence to crack, though, Martin Owilla regaining the lead for Kenya with only seconds of normal time remaining before Dalmus Chituyi secured the victory right at the death.
Kenya are at home for the second weekend running when they take on Uganda at the RFUEA Grounds next Saturday, while the other encounter sees Tunisia entertain Zimbabwe.