by Phil Caplan, Date: 30/7/12

Lebanon Espoirs 0 English Lions U18s 40 – University of Beirut, Hostler Centre

The first historic match between an England team and a Lebanese side ended with a 40-0 victory for the English Lions Under-18s on Saturday evening in Beirut.The tourists scored four tries in each half as they overcame a spirited Liban Espoirs outfit to register a comfortable win.

The visitors had to contend with a stomach bug that knocked out key players Jack Jones and Jack Green prior to the match as well as the sweltering 32 degrees heat at kick off but quickly hit their straps on AUB’s impressive 3G surface, their training base for the tour.


Kelvin Lockett, the Lions head coach, was impressed by his team’s performance. “We really showed the depth of our squad today and it just re-emphasizes how our players need to earn their jerseys,” he said. “We were well-structured, and that’s why we nailed the win in the end.”

His counterpart, Espoir supremo Robin Hachache, was upbeat with his team’s performance despite the final margin. “A glance at the score might have you thinking that we didn’t play very well but you would be mistaken,” he noted. “Our youngsters were always going to do it tough against the more seasoned English side, but the team really had a good go. We know we have a lot of improvement before the next match but everyone was very proud of the way the team played today.”

A break from Espoir acting-half Samer Nehme in Lebanon’s first set, followed by a 50-metre raid by the three-quarters should have ended in points, but a knock on at the play-the-ball snuffed out the early chance, and put the Lions on alert for the rest of this rugged contest.

They responded stylishly, with Barrow centre Ben Garner scoring after six minutes. Skipper Marcus O’Brian then went over to make it 10-0, followed by Danny Rowell. Loose forward Adam Jefferson benefitted from a Lewis Sheridan break to score between the posts to close the first period scoring at 20-0.

The Espoirs – Lebanon’s under-20s national team – started the second half much like they had the first, well marshalled by brother-halfback pairing Andrew and Jason Gergess, applying sustained pressure to the English line, but squandering their chances through bad decision making and a breakdown of skill.

After the second water break and entering the final 15 minutes, the Lions raised their level, registering two late tries from Heworth’s Tyler Craig, who also kicked three goals in a man-of-the-match display, and Rowell again.

Espoirs captain Samer Nehme remained positive. “Despite the score the boys played with a lot of character and we knew it was never going to be easy. They are a very good rugby league side. We have a lot to learn but we know we can get there if we put the required effort in and I am sure after today the boys will be eager to do just that.”

Lockett added, “The Lions will only get better and that was a very good performance from a very game Espoirs side; they should be very proud that they have competed on level terms with a talented and committed Lions outfit. We look forward to meeting them once again on Thursday in game two”.

Mohamed Merheb, Charbel Khatter, Joe Zeidan, Roger Tohme, Tareq Hammoud, Andrew Gerges, Jason Gerges, Atef Hamdan, Samer Nehme, Toni Moubarak, Nabil Tawil, Michael Moubarah, Gaeton Osman.
Subs: Sami Assaf, Moetaz, Mourad, Steve Fadel, Jad Gebreal, Michael Mouawad, Abed Ghazzawi, Atef Hamdan, Mohamad Itani,

Sam Forester, Ben Garner, Danny Rowell, Leon Tatlock, Scott Pink, Karl Dixon, Lewis Sheridan, Matty Cooke, Marcus O`Brian, Ian Curnow, Perry Singleton, Leon Crellin, Adam Jefferson.
Subs: Chris Tomlinson, Tom Whittle, Ethan Kelly, Jamie Tracie, Tyler Craig

Tries: Danny Rowell 2, Ben Garner, Sam Forester, Marcus O’Brien, Tyler Craig, Adam Jefferson, Karl Dixon
Goals: Karl Dixon 1/3, Tyler Craig 3/ 5

Referee: Faysal Jaber