The Men´s World Cup entered the quarter final stages which what appeared, on paper, to be the most one-sided of the four games as Australia took on Lebanon at the John Smith´s Stadium in Huddersfield on Friday night.
Australia were handicapped by forty-four points on the coupon, a loss unthinkable and you could get odds of 40/1+ on The Cedars springing a surprise and eliminating a Kangaroos side which coach Meninga had stated was his first choice starting thirteen.
To create the close spectacle that people now craved from the World Cup it would need to be a night where everything went right for Lebanon while the Australians had a very bad night at the office. The cold weather and English referee Chris Kendall were a couple of unknowns thrown into the equation.
It took the Kangaroos just four minutes to register their opening try of the game as Josh Mansour was unable to drag Josh Addo-Carr into touch. Nathan Cleary was unable to convert from the left touchline, hitting the post. It was clear that both sides were here to play, the hits were brutal.
There was nothing to choose between the two sides for the next eleven minutes, Lebanon making a mockery of the odds early on. But when James Tedesco bust the tackle in mid-field, he found Addo-Carr in support to cover the last twenty metres and score under the sticks. Cleary hit the target this time for a 10-0 lead.
Addo-Carr completed an eighteen-minute hat-trick to break Cedars hearts after a Cam Munster strip created the space for The Fox to go on from five metres out. Cleary missed again, this one short and right. Australia now had the game by its throat.
On twenty-three Isaah Yeo sliced through the Lebanon defence and on the next play the ball was moved left with Lattrell Mitchell eventually going over the top of his tackler to score. Cleary was short with his conversion attempt, the ball dropping short of the crossbar.
Just before the half hour Cameron Murray joined in the scoring fun as he took an Angus Crichton offload for a walk-in try from five metres out. Cleary added the two from in front of the sticks for 24-0, Australia already in the semi-final.
Bagging his second try in three minutes Murray went underneath two tacklers to score by the right post-pad. Cleary on target again for 30-0 and a comprehensive and insurmountable half time lead.
Four minutes after the restart Addo-Carr added his fourth of the night, a scrappy affair as Lebanon failed to bring the ball out of their own twenty, a pass going to ground. Cleary´s conversion just made it over the crossbar for a 36-0 lead.
The crowd went crazy on fifty-one when Josh Mansour dived full length on a Mitchell Moses grubber kick into goal to ground. Moses was unable to add the conversion, but Lebanon had avoided the whitewash.
It was the fifth try from Addo-Carr on fifty-eight grounding a Munster kick to goal after Australia stormed forward from halfway. Cleary found the target from five in from the left touchline for 42-4 with twenty minutes of the game remaining.
The video referee was called into action on sixty-nine but clearly saw that Liam Martin grounded the ball after taking the pass at first receiver three metres out from the Lebanon line. Cleary hit his mark for the sixth time in the game for a final score of 48-4, The Cedars having a much improved second half, a worry for Meninga.
Australia have still to be tested in the World Cup and will go into next weekend´s semi-final, likely against New Zealand, without a proper defensive workout which could count against them as they take on the World number one ranked side. Lebanon knew that they were in for a hiding and would have set their target at avoiding total humiliation. They did have their moments and will take some encouragement for the periods of the game that they prevented the Aussies from scoring.
Australia: Tedesco, Holmes, Wighton, Mitchell (T), Addo-Carr (5T), Munster, Cleary (6G), Trbojevic, Grant, Fa´asuamaleaui, Martin (T), Yeo. Subs: Cherry-Evans, Carrigan, Murray (2T), Collins.
Lebanon: Kiraz, Mansour (T), Morkos, Robinson, Miski, Douehi, Moses, Roumanos, Layoun, Rahme K, El-Zakhem, Tasipale, Kazzi. Subs: Tannous, Rajeb, Bazzaz, Rahme J.
Score Progression: 4-0, 8-0, 10-0, 14-0, 18-0, 22-0, 24-0, 28-0, 30-0 : HT : 34-0, 36-0, 36-4, 40-4, 42-4, 46-4, 48-4: FT .
Lead Exchanges: Australia.
Referee: Chris Kendall.
Attendance: 8,206 at John Smith´s Stadium, Huddersfield.