venue: Hostler Centre AUB, Beirut
16th February 2013
Full Match Report
MENA UNDER-18 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME 2
The second game of the 2013 MENA U18 Championship was an absolute thriller. Heavy rain all night had threatened to make the game a messy one. But after some light drizzle just before kickoff the sun broke through, the rain cleared up and the conditions became perfect for rugby league. Lebanon U18, who won the first match two days earlier, desperately wanted the win to tie up the series and avenge three years of almost total defeat at all age groups to the Saudis.
Saudi Schools Select were not about to give up their crown without a fight and the intensity of the occasion could be seen on both teams’ faces during the warm up. The opening thirty minutes saw KSA dominate although Lebanon opened the scoring against the run of play. Raymond Sabat scooted from dummy half and ran through the defence to go over the line. The conversion saw the home side take a 6-0 lead.
It was the visitors who raised the tempo further, punishing their opponents with some brutal tackles and on the 30th minute mark the KSA blitzkrieg had seen them run in three unanswered tries, through a brace to Ahmed El Obeid and one to Rackan Al Moukhtar to lead 16-6. Omar Marhaba helped Lebanon reduce the deficit by four just before half time, with Lebanon down 16-10.
The break seemed to really shift the momentum towards Lebanon. Within ten minutes pacy stand-off Sabat had scored his second of the day and the scores were locked at 16-all. Inexplicably, KSA came out very flat. Everything they tried seemed to go wrong while everything the locals touched turned to gold. The next thirty minutes saw Lebanon put on two more tries. First Youssef Safadi scored and with ten minutes to go Sabat had his hat-trick, putting Lebanon into a seemingly unassailable 26-16 lead.
Saudi resilience came in the form of Ahmed El Obeid, who collected his own hat trick with ten to go, and the game was in the balance at 26-22. KSA started to get the upper hand in the arm wrestle but the Lebanese defence held on. Frustration in the KSA ranks led to unforced errors and when their inspirational leader Hasam Zakzouk was sent to the sin bin for dissent, all KSA’s hopes of a late win marched off with him. Lebanon ran out the clock to seal the deal and become the 2013 U18s MENA Champions.
Coach Nayef Abisaid was delighted with the campaign: "There's so much belief in these guys, we knew if we play our game KSA would not stop us. It is amazing. I have got a great sense of pride and it’s been great working with these young men and watching how tremendous they’ve become. It’s been a long time coming and the LRLF has been working hard on its future stars and today is the proof that we are on the right track. Next step is the under-16s and I am sure they will carry on our success.”
Saudi Select coach Dave Kinkead was gracious in defeat, praising the Lebanese: “Congratulations to Lebanon; you're not only a well-respected side, but you're a well-liked side in the region. You're a well drilled team, we've had some fantastic tussles in the past and this year was another one - I'm sure there's more to come. To my team, you’re going to win some; you're going to lose some. We're shattered but we played against a very good rugby league team. I couldn't be more proud of the way we fought back after the first game and with the group we've got I know we'll be back next year.”
Ali Kamj, Jad Riyk, Tarek Azouri, Perabjoth Singh, Fawaz Abdu, Ray Sabat, Joe Mouwad, George Yazbek, Karl Kalostiane, Chris Sessine, Omar Marhaba, Liam Chedrawi, Youssef Safadi. Subs: Tarek Haykal, Chris Dalati, George Farah, Samer Shmaysem
SAUDI SCHOOLS SELECT U18
Ahmed El Obeid, Salah Madmourn, Omar Kandil, Muhammad Sillah, Bradley Ellis, Kweky Ofori-Darko, Kareem Selim, Omer Rathore, Hasam Zakzouk, Amr Abotteen, Abdulrahman El Smarkwei, Ahmed El Meligy, Rakan Al Moukhtar. Subs: Karim Baassiri, Mohammed Khadra, Osma Aboullah, Rami Howell