Lenience Tambwagra scored all the points for the visitors with two converted tries while for Tunisia Mohamed Mliss and Issam Ouerhani scored tries with Mohamed Ali Gafsi adding two penalties and a conversion.
The lead up to the match had developed into an international scandal after the Zimbabwe team slept on the streets earlier in the week rather than stay in the accommodation organized for them by the Tunisian Rugby Union.
According to the Zimbabwe team the hotel provided was completely unlivable and when photos of the Zimbabwe team sleeping in the street went viral, the Tunisia Rugby Union was forced to apologise.
But Tunisia then hit back saying there was nothing wrong with the accommodation and a Zimbabwe official was being unreasonable. The Tunisia team then even posed for a mock photo satirizing the Zimbabweans. (see below)
With such a tense build-up fireworks were expected after kick off.
Tunisia Rugby replies to Zimbabwe's mistreatment claims 🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/0arFkjvOWW— Eric Njiru (@Erik_Njiru) July 6, 2018
Just six minutes into the game, Ali Gafsi came close to giving Tunisia the lead when he missed a penalty.
Mliss finally opened the scoring on 24 minutes scoring a try which Ali Gafsi again failed to convert.
Tunisia’s lead was shortlived as just three minutes later Tambwagra tied the score for Zimbabwe with a try before adding the conversion himself to put his team up 7-5 at half time.
Tambwagra added another try on 51 minutes to deepen Tunisia’s wounds, which he again converted to give Zimbabwe a comfortable 14-5 lead.
However a penalty from Ali Gafsi on 57 minutes brought the hosts within six points and a converted try to Ouerhani four minutes later gave them the lead.
Zimbabwe threw everything at the Tunisian line but in the final moments of the game, Tunisia were able to secure their win with another penalty to Ali Gafsi.
Zimbabwe National Rugby Team players slept in the street last night in Tunisia ahead of a @rugbyworldcup qualifier on Saturday against Tunisia.— Eric Njiru (@Erik_Njiru) July 3, 2018
Before that, they were held at the Airport for 6 hours as they could not raise €600 for Visa processing. pic.twitter.com/EoQBMPv2AI
“On the international level, we beat Zimbabwe last year,” said Tunisia coach Ahmed Guerbech after the match.
“We prepared well for this game. We still have three more games that are not going to be easy, two of which are away games.
“Today, we guaranteed an 80% chance of staying in Group A. The players spared no effort and they were true gladiators on the pitch, they made sacrifices by leaving everything behind and joining the team. Bravo to the team.”
Zimbabwe coach Jacob Stoman added: “What went wrong was obviously costly errors from our end. Each time we made a mistake, it got Tunisia back in the game.
“We lacked composure. Tunisia took advantage of that window of mistakes, that what sport is about, when you are given an opportunity, take it and go for it.”
Tunisia now travel to Kampala to take on Uganda on August 4 while Zimbabwe host table-topping Namibia in Harare on the same day.
Africa Gold Cup Standings as of July 7
Hong Kong will take a 23-point advantage into the second leg of their Rugby World Cup 2019 play-off with the Cook Islands with a place in the global repechage within touching distance, after winning the first leg 26-3 at BCI Stadium in Rarotonga on Saturday.
Hong Kong managed to hold the Cook Islands try-less in the first test match between the nations with the return leg taking place at Hong Kong Football Club next Saturday.
“It was an outstanding performance,” said Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones. “I don’t get overly excited about things, but I think it was an historic day for Hong Kong. Cook Islands brought everyone back and they have some top-quality players in that side but our performance was just outstanding.
“It was a tough game and that was a hell of a win.
Ahead of the game, we talked about every point being precious, whether we are giving them away or getting them. It was a great performance and the boys are celebrating now, but if you look at them, they are also grounded. They know we have to do the same next week.
“We won’t be satisfied with losing. We want to make sure that we finish the job off next week.”
Hong Kong stormed deep into Cook Islands territory from the kick-off to set up their first try, number eight Thomas Lamboley crossed the line in the third minute after a series of well-executed attacking phases.
Fly-half Matt Rosslee missed the conversion attempt, setting a pattern as he missed all four conversions, but he was more accurate on his penalty attempts, slotting tough chances on either side of half-time to help maintain the Asian side’s lead.
Hong Kong increased their lead in the 12th minute after Jack Neville took a sneaky reverse pass from centre Lex Kalecka. Cutting against the defence Neville created enough space to put scrum-half Liam Slatem over in the corner.
Cook Islands scored their only points of the game through Greg Mullany’s penalty to cut the deficit to 10-3 after 23 minutes, but Hong Kong’s response was swift with Slatem’s pass sending winger Conor Hartley over.
Rosslee added a penalty to give Hong Kong an 18-3 lead at half-time.
The home side continued to improve in the second half and a swirling wind made it difficult for Hong Kong to add to their tally with more than another Roslee penalty.
A fourth try did eventually come through Max Woodward, who only moments earlier had made a try-saving tackle, finishing off some great interplay with winger Salom Yiu Kam-shing.
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.
Seven-time champions Namibia top the Gold Cup standings on 15 points with the second-placed Simbas of Kenya 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.
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.”