Tonga edge Lebanon to reach World Cup semi-finals
18 Nov 2017 - 10:17
Christchurch, New Zealand: Tonga held off a desperate finish by Lebanon to claim a thrilling 24-22 victory in an intense rugby league World Cup quarter-final in Christchurch on Saturday.
The only try in the second half was scored by Abbas Miski, his second for the match, in a frantic bid by the largely part-time Lebanon side to pull off the upset of the tournament against the full-time professionals in Tongan colours.
Another close three try-scoring attempts by Lebanon were disallowed by the referee.
Tonga led 22-16 at half-time and the telling two-point difference at the end was registered early in the second half when Ata Hingano landed a pressure penalty goal.
The history-making Pacific Islanders, making the play-offs for the first time, will play the winner of Sunday's match in Melbourne between England and Papua New Guinea in the semi-finals.
Every time the bruising Tongans stamped their authority on the game, the smaller and lighter Lebanon side struck back.
David Fusitua used his pace in the opening minutes to put Tuimoala Lolohea over for a try in the opening minutes.
Just as quickly Lebanon replied with man-of-the-match Mitchell Moses combining with NRL veteran Robbie Farah to send Adam Doueihi over.
In a stadium packed with red-clad Tongan supporters, the deadlock was broken midway through the first half when the power of the Jason Taumalolo-led Pacific Island forward pack initiated a two-try burst.
But no sooner had Fusitua and Will Hopoate pushed Tonga out to 16-6 than James Elias resurrected Lebanon's hopes when he won the race for the ball after a Moses chip for the corner was deflected over the try-line.
Fusitua scored his second try for Tonga and Miski replied with his first for Lebanon to give Tonga a six-point lead at half-time.