Hilal Kaarali, Robin Hachache 3, Ghassan Dandach 2, Allen Soultan, Ahmad El Masri, Nemer Saliba, Youseph El Helou, Jad Hachem, Sami Mansur
Baore Edin Rochidi 0/1
Walid Yassin 10/10 Jad Hachem 2/2
MENA CHAMPIONSHIP - GAME 1
Lebanon began defence of their MENA title with a 12-try romp against an outclassed Morocco XIII side. Robin Hachache led the way with three tries while his LAU team-mate, stand-off Walid Yassine, chipped in with a perfect ten goals from as many attempts.
The match was the first time any full national side has played in Morocco, and the first international rugby league in Morocco since the January 2003 visit of Liban Espoir. Adding to the historic occasion was the presence of a number of Moroccan rugby league club officials, who will convene the first ever Moroccan rugby league general assembly later this week as rugby league attempts to make traction in the North African kingdom.
Confusion wafted over the match as Morocco XIII handed in a team-sheet showing a number of changes to their published squad. It was evident from the outset that the Thierry Dumaine-led Cedars were superior in every department to the locals, who nevertheless maintained their spirit in the face of the green-and-white onslaught.
Lebanon scored on their first three possessions and never looked like slowing down, racking up a 48-0 halftime lead.
“For the first game of the tournament, the team started with a lot of discipline with the forwards setting up a good platform,” said Dumaine, the French Federation’s Performance Director. “I’m very happy with the first half because the boys were focused and they showed some very good shape in attack.”
One spectacular ‘try’ by AUB wing Paul Khauli that went through most of the Lebanese players’ hands was disallowed for a foot in touch. The second half saw Morocco XIII lift its game, thanks in part to Lebanon’s mounting profligacy. Front row Ahmad Daghbor scored his side’s only points with a tough hit up. Lebanon tightened up and registered five more tries, with Hilal Kaarali scoring on his debut.
“The team showed a very good spirit and produced a lot of good things on the field we’d worked on last week in Beirut,” added Dumaine. “Despite the score, we will continue to work to secure a second win in the second match on Saturday.”
Members of the Berrechid Municipality and Moroccan sports ministry were on hand to observe the match and signalled their support for the ongoing development of rugby league in Morocco.
RLEF MENA Regional Director Remond Safi, who has been working closely with the Moroccan rugby league clubs over the last few months, was confident that progress on the field will soon follow progress off it, with Moroccan rugby league finally obtaining structure: “It’s clear that the pathway for Morocco will be brighter with the new combined association and then following on from that a federation. Morocco can follow the LRLF lead and become a strong member of the MENA. Today is a historic day where we can see the foundations of MRL being laid. I look forward working with the new MRL to develop and embed the sport within the communities.”
Slawi Kamal, Said Deaf, Salaheddine Bel, Mohamad Mostad, Abed Elaziz Lazwi,Ayoub Akl, Ahmad Daghbor, Mohamad Hdyli, Baore Edin Rochdi, Sadek Husin, Chakib Bouhali, Boukir Amed, Noubi Hassan, Jdidah Mohamed, El Mazriwi hicham, Chane Mohamad, Sahim Yassine.
Pierre Nasr, Paul Khali, Youssef Helou, Rudy Hachache, Sami Mansur, Walid Yassine, Hilal Kaa-rli, Allan soultan, Samer Nehme, Ibrahim Ballout, Nemer Saliba, Ghassan Dandach, Robin Hachache. Subs: Ahmad Masri, Mounir Finan, Kamal Ali, Jad Hachem.