By Phil Caplan, 18/2/13

Lebanon won the MENA under 18s title, narrowly taking both clashes against Saudi Schools select in Beirut.

They ran out 30-18 winners in the opening game on Valentine’s day, prop Chris Sessine with two early tries as the hosts led 20-14 at the break at AUB.

Bradley Ellis, Karim Selim, Ahamd El Obeid and Rackan Al Moukmtar crossed for the visitors, El Obeid with their sole conversion; Joe Mouawad, Ray Sabat, George Farah and outstanding hooker Omar Marhaba with touchdown for the Young Cedars, Tarek Azouri landing three goals.

Stand off Ray Sabat was the hero two days later as Lebanon regained the title, crossing for three tries in a 26-22 success. Saudi Select dominated the opening exchanges but could not score, Sabat putting the hosts ahead against the run of play. Three tries in quick succession, two to Ahamd El Obeid and one from Rackan Al Moukmtar saw the Junior Camels race to a 16-6 lead, Omar Marhaba reducing it at the break. Sabat and a George Farah goal levelled, Youssef Safadi and Sabat’s third together with Farah’s third goal giving Lebanon a ten point lead with ten minutes to play. Saudi full back El Obeid claimed his hat track and a third Kweky Ofori-Darko conversion set up a great finish but Lebanon held on.

Lebanon coach Nayef Abisaid was delighted with the campaign. “There’s so much belief in these guys,” he said. “I have got a real sense of pride and it’s been great working with these young men and watching how good 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.”

“Congratulations to Lebanon, we’ve had some fantastic tussles in the past and this year was another one,” noted Dave Kinkead, Saudi Select’s coach. “ 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 to try and regain our crown.”