venue: CUS, Catania
12th June 2016
Full Match Report
Lebanon continued its unbeaten run in the Mediterranean Cup by beating Italy 26-22 in an exciting match played in Catania, Sicily, on Sunday.
A hat-trick of tries from centre Ray Sabat, two scored inside the first 15 minutes, helped put Lebanon into a commanding 20-0 lead but unconverted tries from two of Italy’s more experienced players, accomplished hooker Simone Boscolo and utility Catalin Diac, closed the gap to 12 points at the interval.
Two tries in a five-minute spell from debutant Italian fullback Antonio Arrigo put the home side firmly back in contention. Had he converted his second, on 51 minutes, the scores would have been tied at 20-all, but Lebanon hung onto their slender two-point lead.
Sabat’s hat-trick, on 64 minutes, gave the Cedars some breathing space, while scrum-half Jad Hachem’s 71st minute penalty meant Italy had to score twice to overcome the 26-18 deficit. They managed one of those, with Diac touching down again with three minutes to go, but Lebanon’s defence survived.
Lebanon quote Tarik Houchar, who had flown in from Sydney with two support staff a week before the trip, put the win down to solid week in camp: “The preparation was a reflection of the result, I'm very proud of the effort the boys displayed in what was a very tough game on Italy's home turf. We got off to a great start and took control of the game early with our high completion rate, our first mistake led to a Italy try which invited them back in the game.
“There were some outstanding efforts out there; captain Robin Hachache led the way in defence and in attack, Ghassan Dandach and Khalil Bejjani both played 80 minutes, were in everything and were inspirational with some solid defensive efforts. There's a lot talent coming through our system and the local competition in Lebanon will only grow and produce more players in years to come.”
Both sides fielded 12 debutants in the first Med Cup since 2004, which was played in Sicily as part of the Federazione Italiana Rugby League’s strategy to develop its southern most outpost. Both federations had agreed to field only players classified under the RLEF’s ‘domestic quota’ rule, to aid local development.
Antonio Arrigo, Edoardo Pezzano, Matteo Mazzoleni, Davide Spinnato, Catalin Diac, Matthew Sands, Igor Giammario, Francesco di Trapani, Simone Boscolo, Guiseppe Pagani, Gioele Celerino, Luca Rossetti, Riccardo Dodi. Subs: Jaume Giorgis, Salvatore Catania, Michele Sutto, Achraf Hliwa
Hazem Tawil, Rami Abboud, Joseph Zeidan, Raymond Sabat, Imad Chidiac, Wael Harb, Jad Hschem, Rudy Hachache, Raeh Taouk, Mounir Finan, Ghassan Dandach, Khalil Bejjani, Robin Hachache. Subs: Mike Tawk, Nabil Tawil, Ali Abou Arabi, Gianni Hammoudi