England came into tonight’s game in Sydney with some trepidation against an almost unknown Lebanon side who had performed so brilliantly last week in their win over France.
The injury to Sam Burgess meant that Ben Currie was in the starting line up with Alex Walmsley, now recovered from a virus, given a position on the bench. Giving more of his squad some game time, coach Bennett brought in Ratchford for Lomax in the starting line up, and Williams for Roby on the bench.
It was a carnival like atmosphere as a massive Lebanese following hoped to cheer Brad Fittler’s side to one of the all-time World Cup upsets.
Robust early defence from Lebanon frustrated England who spent most of the early exchanged deep inside the Cedars half.
The opening try came on eight minutes when the ball was moved right down the line into the hands of Kallum Watkins who was able to round the winger with ease to score. Gareth Widdop added the goal and the dominance had finally counted on the score board.
Lebanon started to get some better field position and on eighteen minutes England failed to deal with a Farah grubber kick and Nick Kassis got one hand on the ball in the goal area. Mitchell Moses added the extras to level the scores.
After absorbing more Lebanese danger there was relief for England when Jermaine McGillvary took a Watkins pass to go down the right wing before coming in field to score. Widdop added the extras to restore the six point lead.
On twenty-seven England went down the left wing and Ryan Hall found the space off a John Bateman pass to score in the left corner. Widdop failed to add a difficult two points.
Four minutes later and Ben Currie found a gap off a Josh Hodgson pass to go ten metres and dive over. Widdop kicked the conversion and England had established a bit of daylight at 22-6.
The earliest action of the second half saw McGillvary put ‘on report’ for an alleged biting incident just two minutes in as the sides started to get in one another’s faces.
After a period of stalemate, James Graham was the provider as he hit the line and offloaded to Tom Burgess enabling the second rower to go forty metres to dive over by the sticks. Widdop added the extras and with fifty-six on the clock England were 28-6 ahead.
On seventy-five Jason Wehbe went over on his back and managed to get the ball on the ground as Lebanon capitalist on a period of pressure. Moses failed to add the extras and his side trailed 28-10.
As the final hooter sounded, Gareth Widdop slotted over a close range drop goal to seal the 29-10 victory.
It was mission accomplished for England against the potential ‘banana skin’ that was an accomplished Cedars side. It was a workmanlike performance from most of the side but nothing really exceptional that might indicate England’s potential to go all the way. The defence was decent enough but there was a lack of flare on the offensive. A win for England over France next week would likely see them finish second with Lebanon taking the third spot, regardless of their outcome against Australia.
England: Ratchford, McGillvary (T), Watkins (T), Bateman, Hall (T), Widdop (4G, DG), Gale, Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Whitehead, Currie (T), O'Loughlin. Subs: Walmsley, Heighington, T. Burgess (T), Williams.
Lebanon: Abu-Sleiman, Robinson, Maarbani, Doueihi, Maki, Moses (G), Farah, Mannah, Twal, Ellaz, Kassis (T), Mamary, Clark. Subs: Lichaa, Moujali, Wehbe (T), Sukkar.
Referee: Ben Thaler.