By John Davidson, Date: 12/11/17 (Photo Credit NRLPhotos)
The Kangaroos have crushed the Cedars in Sydney, running out 34-0 victors in their final World Cup group match.
Australia have topped Group A after notching their third straight win of the tournament. The defending champions will now clash with Samoa in their Darwin quarter-final next Friday.
Despite the scoreline it was hardly the most convincing of wins for the green and gold. Australia failed to complete a lot of sets and its error count was high. Lebanon defended bravely and gave a spirited display, just like they did against France and England.
Most concerning for Mal Meninga will be that props David Klemmer and Aaron Woods were both put on report. The pair could miss next weekend’s quarter-final in the Northern Territory.
Cameron Munster opened the scoring, in the unfamiliar position of centre, in the seventh minute after a cut-out pass from James Maloney. Klemmer was then put on report for a huge hit.
The Cedars were gritty and getting numbers into the tackle but James Maloney was the next to score, after Cronk took the ball to the line. He passed to Reagan Campbell-Gillard and it was the front-rower’s offload that opened the defence up for Maloney to stroll over in the 25th minute, making it 10-0.
Australia started to lose its way with mistakes and loose ball control adding up. Lebanon were up for the fight and threw the ball around. At half-time the Kangaroos had only completed 63% of their sets and had made eight errors, compared to Lebanon’s four.
At the start of the second half Ben Hunt came on at hooker, replacing Cameron Smith. Munster got his brace in the 49th minute after some fancy footwork resulted in an exceptional solo try. Four minutes later Boyd Cordner was over after a Maloney grubber.
At 22-0 it looked like the floodgates might open, but they didn’t. Lebanon kept running the ball hard and throwing their bodies in front of Kangaroo carries. Woods was put on report for a nasty-looking spear tackle on Tim Mannah.
The Cedars lost their influential five-eighth Mitchell Moses in the 71st minute after he copped a whack from Wade Graham. In the final four minutes Lebanon were out on their feet and the game opened up.
First Dane Gagai touched down after a perfectly-weighted chip kick from Cooper Cronk. Then with the last play of the match, Valentine Holmes broke down the left edge and found Tom Trobjevic in support for his first try for his country.
Australia had only completed 32 of their 45 sets and made 15 errors in total, and also gave away 12 penalties. That will be an area Meninga will want to fix heading into the next game.
For Lebanon, they might have been beaten but they live to fight another day. Their next challenge is another tough one as they will face Tonga in the quarter-finals.
Tries: C. Munster 2, J. Maloney, B. Cordner, D. Gagai, T. Trbojevic. Goals: C. Smith, J. Maloney 4