The opening game of a three-team African women’s series was a victory for Tunisia’s high-tempo rugby against the more physical approach of Senegal.
Drawing on their sevens experience, Tunisia’s intent to play with ball in hand was evident from the off and they crossed the Senegalese line with only four minutes gone.
Prop Dardouri Amel scored what turned out to be the only try of the match but some of the passages of play Tunisia managed to produce in attack belied their inexperience at this level.
Emna ben Arous showed up well on the wing with some dangerous runs and, overall, there is much to be encouraged by heading into next weekend’s encounter against the Ivory Coast.
Discipline, however, will be a key work-on as Tunisia played virtually the whole of the second quarter one player down due to yellow cards to number eight Emna Zarai and Ranime Madouri.
Their departure, on 22 and 31 minutes, disrupted Tunisia’s rhythm and allowed Senegal to finish the half on the front foot, even though they lost some key players to injury.
It took some determined defending to keep their bigger opponents at bay but Tunisia held on to take a 5-0 lead into half-time.
“A great experience”
After a scoreless third quarter, Senegal lost Anna Michelle Prudence Preira to the sin-bin and the scoreboard got moving again.
Home fly-half Ameni ben Salem slotted two penalties to one from Mariem Coumba Barry to make the score 11-3 with 13 minutes to play.
Ben Salem slotted a third penalty late on before the match ended with Senegal down to 14 players following Preira’s 80th-minute dismissal for a second yellow card offence.
An enthusiastic home crowd showed their appreciation at the final whistle and it was all smiles in the Tunisia squad that they had been able to mark their first outing with a win.
“It was a great experience,” beamed Ben Salem. “We came in aware that Senegal were much more experienced in the 15s game, whereas we are much more experienced in playing sevens.”
Tunisia team manager Abdelaziz Chaouachi also noted the difference in styles and said scoring so early gave them a big boost.
“It’s a good result. Scoring so early seemed to make a big impact on the Senegalese team psychologically,” he remarked.
“Both teams are equally strong physically but with different strengths, Senegal is stronger in the scrums and Tunisia play a more technical and faster game, which is a result from their strong showing in the women’s sevens which is a very fast game.”
The victory puts Tunisia 32nd in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings and Senegal 37th.