REPORT: Tonga 24 Lebanon 22

(Image credit - RLWC2017.com / NRL Imagery)

Tonga created history as they progressed to the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time as they edged past an impressive Lebanon outfit 24-22 on Saturday.  

Tui Lolohea put Tonga ahead before Lebanon drew level through Adam Doueihi. Tonga then went 16-6 ahead thanks to tries from David Fusitu’a and Will Hopoate.

James Elias brought the Cedars back into the game before Fusitu’a extended Tonga’s lead. Lebanon stuck in the game though and Abbas Miski scored just before the break, but Tonga were just 22-16 in front when heading into the sheds.

Ata Hingano added a penalty goal in the second half to give Tonga an eight-point lead. However, Lebanon continued to challenge Tonga and made it a nail-biting finish as Miski went over late on but it wasn’t enough as Tonga progressed to the semi-finals with a narrow 24-22 win.

TEAM NEWS

Kristian Woolf made four changes to his Tonga side that made history against New Zealand last weekend. Mahe Fonua, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Sam Moa and Peni Terepo were replaced by Michael Jennings, Joe Ofahengaue, Tevita Pangai Jnr and Ukuma Ta’ai.

Brad Fittler made three changes to his Lebanon outfit that lost to Australia last time out. Travis Robinson, Nick Kassis and Elias Sukkar came in for Danny Barakat, Chris Saab and Andrew Kazzi.

FIRST HALF

The game couldn’t have started for Tonga as they scored in the third minute. In-form winger David Fusitu’a made a fine break down the wing to throw it back inside to the supporting Tui Lolohea who darted over. Ata Hingano converted to put his side in a 6-0 lead.

It took just a couple of sets for Lebanon to come back into the game though. Robbie Farah took on the Tonga defence and it went through quick hands to Adam Doueihi who threw a sublime step to score. Mitchell Moses added the conversion to level the score at 6-6.

The Cedars got on top of Tonga following the try for a couple of sets but the Mate Ma’a took the lead once more through Fusitu’a. The ball went through quick hands to the winger who finished acrobatically in the corner. Hingano dragged the conversion attempt wide but Tonga were 10-6 to the good.

Lebanon started to concede a couple of penalties and Tonga capitalised on the opportunities. Andrew Fifita produced a superb pass to Will Hopoate who burst through a gap to score out wide. New Zealand Warriors star Hingano added the extras, Tonga 16-6 Lebanon.

Cedars full-back Anthony Layoun thought he had scored midway through the first half as he went over in the corner but the video referee ruled no try due to his arm being in touch.

Lebanon were playing some really exciting rugby in the first half and scored one of the tries of the tournament on the half hour mark. Moses made a brilliant break and his chip over the top ricocheted off the head of Jason Taumalolo before James Elias pounced on the ball over the line. The conversion from Moses was on target and the Cedars only trailed 16-12.

It wasn’t long before Tonga were in again though. Fusitu’a leaped above Travis Robinson to collect a lovely chip from Hingano to touch down. Hingano’s boot made the score 22-12 in favour of the Mate Ma’a.

Lebanon stuck in the game and pulled another one back just before the half-time hooter sounded. Abbas Miski latched onto a brilliant kick through from Layoun. Moses couldn’t convert but they were only 22-16 behind at the break.

HALF TIME: Tonga 22–16 Lebanon.

SECOND HALF

Lebanon came out all guns blazing in the second half and caught Tonga by surprise when they thought they had scored in the 45th minute. Adam Doueihi burst onto a Moses drop-off to reach over but video referee Ben Thaler ruled it out for obstruction.

In the 52nd minute, Tonga won a penalty 30-metres away from the Lebanon line and in front of the sticks. They opted to take the two and Hingano’s boot gave the Mate Ma’a an eight-point lead.

Mitchell Moses was running the show in the second half and Lebanon always looked like they were going to score when he had the ball inside Tonga’s territory.

The Cedars made it a nervy finish. They threw the ball from one wing to the other and Miski grabbed his second out wide following a wonderful passing play. Moses added the conversion, Tonga 24-22 Lebanon.

Lebanon had a couple of chances to snatch the game late on but Tonga hung on to seal a 24-22 victory and progress through to the semi-finals of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

FULL TIME: Tonga 24–22 Lebanon.

MATCH DETAILS

Tonga – 24

Tries: Lolohea, Fusitu’a 2, Hopoate

Goals: Hingano 4/5

Lebanon – 22

Tries: Doueihi, Elias, Miski 2

Goals: Moses 3/4

HT: 22-16

Attendance: 8,309

Loverugbyleague.com MOM: Mitchell Moses (Lebanon)

TEAMS

Tonga: 1. Will Hopoate, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Konrad Hurrell, 5. David Fusitu’a, 6. Tui Lolohea, 7. Ata Hingano, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Sione Katoa, 19. Joe Ofahengaue, 11. Manu Ma’u, 12. Sika Manu (C), 13. Jason Taumalolo.

Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 16. Tevita Pangai Jnr, 17. Ben Murdoch-Masila, 18. Ukuma Ta’ai.

Lebanon: 1. Anthony Layoun, 2. Travis Robinson, 3. James Elias, 4. Adam Doueihi, 5. Abbas Miski, 6. Mitchell Moses, 7. Robbie Farah, 8. Tim Mannah, 9. Michael Lichaa, 10. Alex Twal, 11. Nick Kassis, 12. Ahmad Ellaz, 13. Jamie Clark.

Interchange: 14. Mitchell Mamary, 15. Ray Moujalli, 16. Elias Sukkar, 17. Jason Wehbe.

Referee – Gerard Sutton

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