Many expected Tonga to make light work of Lebanon in their quarter-final clash, but it was the complete opposite as the Mate Ma’a squeezed through with a 24-22 victory.
The result would have been different too if the Cedars didn’t have three tries disallowed by the video referee, missing out on a semi-final spot by the skin of their teeth.
Mitchell Moses was the stand-out player on the pitch in Christchurch but his efforts were not enough, with Tonga’s try-scoring machine David Fusitu’a posting a double to help his side progress.
England or Papua New Guinea await for the Mate Ma’a in Auckland next week for a place in the 2017 World Cup Final and despite not been at their best today, the Tongans will fancy their chances against either.
It was a frantic first half that saw both sides play superb attacking football with Tuimoala Lolohea and Adam Doueihi exchanging early scores.
It then seemed like Tonga would run away with the game when Fusitu’a and Will Hopoate opened up a 10-point lead, but James Elias touched down to ensure the game remained competitive.
The frantic nature of the first half didn’t end there as Fusitu’a and Abbas Miski went over in the final five minutes, with the half-time score at 22-16.
If there was fewer points in the second half then there definitely wasn’t any less drama as Lebanon continued to throw the ball about and they would have hit the front but for their second try been disallowed.
Ata Hingano then slotted over a crucial penalty in the 53rd minute to open an eight-point lead, before Moses went close again for the Cedars.
However, they would set up a grandstand finish when Miski crossed for his second but they were unable to get over again in the final nine minutes as Tonga made it through.
Tonga: Hopoate, Tupou, Jennings, Hurrell, Fusitu’a, Lolohea, Hingano, Fifita, Katoa, Taukeiaho, Mau’u, Many, Taumalolo. Interchange: Havili, Moa, Pangai Jnr, Murdoch-Masila.
Lebanon: Layoun, Robinson, Elias, Doueihi, Miski, Moses, Farah, Mannah, Lichaa, Twal, Kassis, Ellaz, Clark. Interchange: Mamary, Moujali, Sukkar, Wehbe.
Credit: NRL Photos