|England 29 (22)|
|Tries: Watkins, McGillvary, Hall, Currie, Burgess|
|Goals: Widdop (4)|
|Drop goal: Widdop|
|Lebanon 10 (6)|
|Tries: Kassis, Wehbe|
England earned their first win at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup by running in five tries against spirited Lebanon.
Having lost their opener to Australia, England led 22-6 at half-time through tries from Kallum Watkins, Jermaine McGillvary, Ryan Hall and Ben Currie.
Thomas Burgess ran in a solo try after the break, but England found it hard to open up spirited Lebanon further.
Lebanon, backed by plenty of supporters in Sydney, narrowed the gap through Jason Wehbe’s late try.
Gareth Widdop struck a drop goal with the last kick of the game to finish off a relatively comfortable win for an England side that lacked fluency for large parts.
Assuming Australia defeat Lebanon to finish top of Group A, England will confirm their quarter-final place as runners-up by beating France in the final pool game on Sunday, 12 November.
Wayne Bennett’s side would then play the Group C winners – either Papua New Guinea or Ireland – in the last eight.
‘Job done’ as England build momentum
England were expected to ease past Lebanon, whose squad is a mix of NRL stars and part-time players, in the first meeting between the two countries.
But the minnows showed plenty of intensity in the opening 20 minutes – which also witnessed some English ill-discipline – before Bennett’s men asserted some control before the break.
A scrappy second period showed few signs of England’s attacking threat as some mishandling in wet conditions and a lack of clinical finishing let Lebanon off the hook.
England had lost 18-4 defeat against current world champions Australia last weekend, but there were plenty of positives for veteran coach Bennett to take from that match.
The Australian said he did not want to see his team “go backwards” against Lebanon and he won’t have enjoyed the lack of fluency in the second half even if his side were defensively sound – and afterwards he described the performance as “mixed”.
Former England captain and BBC Sport pundit Kevin Sinfield said: “It was job done, we needed to win. It could have been a banana skin. Now we move on.”
McGillvary accused of ‘bite’
England winger McGillvary has been one of his side’s best performers in the tournament, but he could face disciplinary action after being accused of biting by Lebanon skipper Robbie Farah.
The Huddersfield player was placed on report by referee Ben Thaler after Farah complained he was bitten on the arm in a ruck at the start of the second half.
Television replays proved inconclusive about the alleged bite, and English official Thaler referred the incident to a disciplinary panel who will review it after the game.
“You never like seeing those things on a footy pitch – and I reacted,” Farah said afterwards.
However, BBC Sport analyst Robbie Hunter-Paul said he did not see evidence that McGillvary “opened his mouth and bit him”.
‘Park team’ Lebanon show promise
Lebanon secured a shock 29-18 victory over France in their opening game, but the size of their task against England was illustrated by bookmakers offering odds of 25-1 for them to cause another upset.
The squad includes players who are household names in Australia, including scrum-half Farah and emerging star Mitchell Moses, but also part-time players who had to go back to their day jobs around Sydney as builders and electricians in the build-up to the England match.
Farah, perhaps disingenuously, described his side as a “park team” in his post-match interview. But this emerging rugby league nation can be proud of their performance against an established side, particularly having held England to a try apiece in a hard-fought second half.
Brad Fittler’s side were well supported at the Sydney Football Stadium as there is a Lebanese community of around 200,000 living in the city’s suburbs.
Although their side were pinned back for most of the game, they were given moments to savour when Lebanon briefly levelled through Nick Kassis’ first -half try and then when Wehbe added a second near the end.
Kassis reacted quickest to a smart grubber as they pegged England back to 6-6, while Wehbe bulldozed his way through to touch down for a late consolation.
England: Ratchford; McGillvary, Watkins, Bateman, Hall; Widdop, Gale; Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Currie, Whitehead, O’Loughlin.
Interchanges: Walmsley, Heighington, T Burgess, Williams.
Lebanon: Daniel Abou-Sleiman, Travis Robinson, Bilal Maarbani, Adam Doueihi, Abbas Miski, Mitchell Moses, Robbie Farah, Tim Mannah, Jamie Clark, Mitchell Mamary, Alex Twal, Ahmad Ellaz, Nick Kassis.
Interchanges: Ray Moujalli, Michael Lichaa, Jason Wehbe, Elias Sukkar.
Referee: Ben Thaler
|Rugby League World Cup on the BBC|
|Venues: Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea|
|Dates: 27 October to 2 December|
|Coverage: Watch live coverage and highlights on BBC TV, Connected TV, online & the BBC Sport app and listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and sports extra.|
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