Italy levelled their two match series with Lebanon, after a hard fought victory in Padova. The Cedars had triumphed 16-8 in the opening clash but it had come at a cost as Lebanon was reduced to 16 due to a massive injury toll.
That did not show in the early part of the game as Italy struggled to control the arm wrestle and it was Lebanon who looked in the driving seat through their quick play the balls and structured set up.
Like the first clash, the two sides are at similar levels and it made the game a tough and interesting tussle.
Both were not afraid to play to the boundaries with the ball being shifted wide at every opportunity.
Italy was the first to score with a nice play to put Alessandro Cuomo in for a try in the corner which was not converted but they failed to capitalise and Mohamed Jamil posted his third try in the series, Abdul Bekdache converting to give the visitors a 6-4 lead at the break.
Both sides showed grit and determination at the start of the second half, two tries from Rudy Hachache in six minutes giving Lebanon a commanding lead.
Remi Fontana and Liam Zollo took control and directed the pack and when Dean Vicelich came on from the subs bench the game started to move in Italy’s direction.
Vicelich scored twice, Cuomo goaling one, including a huge effort from the base of the scrum when he raced 60 metres to the try line.
Lebanon looked to hit back but Cuomo took an intercept and raced away. The ball went through three pairs of hands before ending up with Thomas Robuschi who scored and converted.
Lebanon did not give in and worked hard to get the game back but Italy showed great defensive guile to take victory.
A happy Italian coach Carlo Napolitano stated, “I am really happy for the boys to have grinded out a result, their defensive qualities were exceptional today all week they have been happy for information on how to play Rugby League better and it was a pleasure to coach the team.”
“I thought Fabio Nannini was outstanding today he is a centre and wing in Union but I chose to play him in the front row and his speed and agility caused Lebanon massive problems and he deserved his man of the match award”
Napolitano added “Lebanon and Italy are really at a equal skill level and I would like to see this series of games to be continued every year. If Lebanon had a full bench it could have been a different story but I’ll take a win”
When asked about the preparation for this game Napolitano explained “we have Italian players making the trip to make up the main bulk of the team with five players from this year’s Italian Championship to figure in the squad. The main aim for this game is to look at the level below the NRL and Super League level to see what we have so we can start to plan for the World Cup Qualifiers next October”