MADAGASCAR beat Namibia 57-54 after extra time to win the Africa Rugby Cup Division 1B tournament in Madagascar yesterday afternoon.
In a thrilling match that went into extra time with the teams level at 43-all at the end of normal time, Namibia held a 54-51 lead with two minutes to go. But the home side scored the winning try in the final minute of the game to send their 35 000 fans into ecstasy.
As the winners of Division B1 of the Africa Cup competition, Madagascar are now promoted to Division A1, while Namibia remain in Division 1B. Namibia will still participate in the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifiers which get underway next year, although their path to the top will be much more difficult now.
Namibia applied the early pressure but Madagascar pounced on their mistakes, to score three early tries against the run of play, that put them 19-0 ahead after only 20 minutes. According to Namibian team manager William Steenkamp, Namibia was rattled by the fanatical Madagascan support and they took a while to find their feet.
"The supporters were fanatical and there was so much noise, you could not hear yourself think. I think that affected our team and the pressure got to them," he said.
Namibia opened their account with tries by Lean Stoop and Johnny Redelinghuys but at halftime, Madagascar held a comfortable 29-14 lead.
Namibia came back strongly in the second half and they seemed to be set for victory when they led 43-29 with 10 minutes remaining. Urged on by their fanatical supporters, Madagascar scored two late tries to draw level at 43-all to force the match into extra time.
Namibia took the initiative with a try and a penalty to take a 51-43 lead, but Madagascar reduced the gap to 51-50 with a converted try.
A penalty by flyhalf Theuns Kotze put Namibia 54-50 ahead but Madagascar had the final say as they scored a converted try in the final minute to win the match 57-54.
Both teams scored eight tries apiece. Namibia's scorers were Stoop, Redelinghuys, Morné Blom, Chrysander Botha, Shaun Esterhuizen, Arthur Bouwer, Justin Nel and Petrus Human.
Theuns Kotze had a bad day with the boot and could only convert one try while he also added a drop goal and three penalties.
Steenkamp said the match was played at a high tempo and Namibia made too many basic errors.
"Madagascar played at a very high tempo and we made too many basic errors. I must say, Madagascar played excellent rugby," he said.