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#RLWC2017 REVIEW | Mate Ma’a Tonga 24 Lebanon Cedars 22

Tonga continued their great run in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, with a 24-22 win over Lebanon in Christchurch on Saturday afternoon. The Cedars put up a strong fight, but came up just short as Tonga’s forwards proved the difference. Tonga move to the semi finals against England or Papua New Guinea.

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A tale of two halves for Tonga

Consistency on both sides of the ball was an issue last week against New Zealand, and that was on show against Lebanon. Tonga scored in the opening four minutes with a terrific break from David Fusitu’a, and they added two more tries in the opening 23 minutes for a comfortable 16-6 advantage. Tonga took their foot off the pedal, aided by Lebanon’s increased defensive pressure. A brilliant try to Lebanon in the 30th minute changed the momentum. Lebanon gained more chances, with Tonga struggling to find consistency through their backline, but a strong start was ultimately enough for Tonga.

Lebanon goes down fighting

As huge underdogs, the Cedars gave it all they had and made the game the most exciting of the finals series so far. Lebanon absorbed a lot of defensive pressure in the opening half hour. The second half saw their attacking opportunities rise, aligning with Tonga’s fallen urgency. Mitchell Moses and Robbie Farah orchestrated strong sets on the attacking side, and although they could not pull off the upset, the spirited performance from Lebanon showed the great development of the game in smaller nations.

Tongan forward pack once again proves the difference

Regardless of their backline struggling with chances in the second half, Tonga’s forward pack – as always – was the key. Lebanon struggled to handle the big forward runners, with 41 missed tackles to Tonga’s 25. Tonga outran Lebanon 1818 metres to 1317 metres; Jason Taumalolo ran for an impressive 217 metres. Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita led the forwards who continuously busted tackles, and a huge run from Fifita late gave Tonga great field position and secured their win.

Moses a huge silver lining in Lebanon’s defeat

Mitchell Moses’ form for the Parramatta Eels in the NRL carried over to the World Cup for Lebanon, and he turned up when it mattered most. Moses was a consistent threat as first receiver – along with Robbie Farah – where he ran the ball terrifically at the line, highlighted by a great second half run that nearly gave Lebanon a chance to equalise. Moses gained two line breaks as well as a try assist, and delivered 100 metres off the boot as well as numerous attacking kicks to finish sets. His questionable decision to kick the ball in the final minute of the game was his only negative, in a performance that was bittersweet.

 

Scoreboard:

Tonga: 24
Tries: Lolohea (4m), Fusitu’a (2) (18m, 34m), Hopoate (22m)
Goals: Hingano 4/5

Lebanon: 22
Tries: Miski (2) (40m, 69m) Doueihi (9m), Elias (30m),
Goals: Moses 3/4

Aspiring sports journalist, currently studying at AUT in Auckland, New Zealand.

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