TRIPOLI CITY CROWNED LEBANESE RUGBY LEAGUE CHAMPIONS
20th June 2012
Tripoli City Kings RLFC, in their debut season, have been crowned Lebanese rugby league champions after defeating the Immortals RLFC, 34-14 in Bhamdoun. The Kings dethroned the reigning champions who, having participated in all five Bank of Beirut Championship finals - losing the first two – were looking for a hat-trick of victories against the northern newcomers.
The omens had not been auspicious for the Immortals following a serious training ground injury to all-time leading Lebanese points scorer Rudy Hachache, who fractured his leg in three places in the build up. Having won just one of their opening five matches Tripoli finished second in the league ladder after a mid-season revival but gathered momentum to claim the title and victory now provides player/coach and try scorer, Naaman Naaman with the impetus to establish the club in the sporting landscape of the country’s second city.
“As the first northern-based team to take part in the Bank of Beirut Championship, no one gave us much hope against an impressive Immortals side,” said a jubilant Allen Soultan, the Kings’ captain. “However, our self-belief and camaraderie got us through in the end, as it has all year. The boys showed talent and experience beyond their years and enjoyed a fitting end to their Cinderella story.”
In a captivating grand final, Mohamed Merheb’s opener for Tripoli was cancelled out by George Rahal’s score four minutes later, Jad Hachem’s successful conversion giving the men from Beirut a 6-4 advantage, the only time they were to lead in the match. The sides were level 10-all at the break but three converted tries in the opening nine minutes of the second half gave Tripoli a 28-10 lead that broke the green-and-whites’ resolve.
Despite Robin Hachache lifting his side with a typical try to make it 28-14 the Immortals were unable to close the gap, Charbel Khattar wrapping up an unexpected but deserved win with his second try.
"This championship came from a team with no proper sized rugby league field to train on, where some players did not want to play with others [at the start of the season] and were told to get along or there is no team, to having our own issues relating to political tensions in the north of Lebanon, which would put off some training days and many other issues. But we are the Bank of Beirut Champions of 2011-2012 and the bus ride home was awesome!" said a delighted coach Naaman.
Pictured: Allen Soultan receives the trophy from LRLF president Mohamed Habbous.
Immortals RLFC 14 (10) v (10) 34 Tripoli City RLFC
Immortals Tries: George Rahal, Adam Itani, Robin Hachache
Immortals Goals: Jad Hachem 1/3
Tripoli City Tries: Mohamed Merheb, Charbel Khattar 2, Naaman Naaman, Mike Elias 2
Tripoli City Goals: Mohamed Merheb 5/6