Lebanon’s U18s defeated their Saudi Select counterparts in both games played in Beirut over the weekend to take the MEA Junior Championship.
The young Cedars won the first match, played in stormy, cold conditions, 18-4 on Friday night before turning on the style with a 40-6 victory on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia RL Association chairman David Kinkead said, “These were probably the most physical games that Saudi and Lebanon have played in my time as head coach.
“What was most pleasing was the high level of skill on display. Both sides have made huge strides forward in terms of technique and playing ability. We are disappointed to lose but want to congratulate the Lebanese on a terrific series.”
In game one the visitors endured the type of wintry conditions seldom seen in the Gulf of Arabia, but held Lebanon to a scoreless first half.
Lebanon Youth head coach Nayef Abisaid was quick to praise the effort put in by both sides. “This was the best game between Lebanon and Saudi Select at any age group. It was solid and physical in the middle with both teams trying to dominate the ruck,” he said.
Injuries reduced the Saudis’ potency in game two and, after home stand off Ray Sabat opened the scoring on five minutes with the first of his two tries, the Lebanese were dominant under a Mediterranean sun, extending the lead to 22-0 at the break and only letting the Saudis in for one unconverted try – through Argentine-born scrum half Gonzalo Lacouna – while scoring eight.
RLEF MEA Director Remond Safi was pleased with the return of the local series after a year’s hiatus due to the political situation in Lebanon. “It was breath-taking to see the games being played at such a high skill level,” he said.
“The winner here is rugby league as this was a fantastic spectacle for the Middle East Africa region, hopefully we will see more nations meeting in upcoming MEA fixtures.”
Further MEA competition is expected this year at U16 and U14 levels.