Tonga v Lebanon: RLWC Preview
Tonga v Lebanon
It was dubbed one of the greatest moments in Tonga's sporting history, but last week's stunning comeback win over the Kiwis will count for little if they can't back it up against Lebanon in an elimination showdown in Christchurch.
Trailing by 14 points at the break, it looked as if Mate Ma'a would have to settle for second spot in Pool B, but a second-half blitz inspired by David Fusitu'a, Konrad Hurrell and Ben Murdoch-Masila flipped the game on its head as Tonga roared home to snatch a famous 28-22 win.
While it will be impossible to replicate the passion that engulfed that contest from the respective war dances to the final whistle, the highly-fancied Tongans can't let their guard down against a Lebanon side that plays with just as much emotion.
Brad Fittler's men have been a joy to watch so far with their fans providing as much entertainment off the field as the players have on it.
They've held their own in back-to-back losses to England and Australia but must overcome a horror injury toll if they want to upset Tonga. Robbie Farah (heel), Michael Lichaa (foot) and Mitchell Moses (shoulder) have all been named while Chris Saab (concussion) has been included on the extended bench but is unlikely to play after suffering a head knock against the Kangaroos.
Tonga welcome back try-scoring machine Michael Jennings as well as experienced big man Sam Moa while Tevita Pangai Junior has done enough to maintain his spot on the bench.
Why Tonga can win: It was their backs who stole the show against New Zealand but there's no denying that the attacking onslaught wouldn't have been possible without their stars in the engine room. The big three up front of Sio Siua Taukeiaho (558 metres), Jason Taumalolo (540) and Andrew Fifita (454) have been unstoppable this tournament and have laid an unrivalled platform for their halves and outside backs to work from. There will be no respite for the Cedars with Moa, Pangai Junior and Murdoch-Masila set to be unleashed midway through the first half.
Why Lebanon can win: Did Tonga play their grand final last week? That's what the Cedars will be counting on. There's no doubt Mate Ma'a will experience some sort of a comedown after the highs of last week's victory, and if there is any sign of complacency then Lebanon must attack the cracks. The class of Moses, Farah and Lichaa will ensure there are try-scoring opportunities, and it's up to the likes of Adam Doueihi and Jason Wehbe to find the line when given a chance.
The history: This will be their first meeting.
Match officials: Referee: Gerard Sutton. Touch judges: Robert Hicks and Dave Munro. Video referee: Ashley Klein.
Televised: Seven Mate – Live Coverage from 3pm.
NRL.com predicts: The Cedars have been brave throughout the World Cup but that will only get them so far against a Tongan side that is starting to believe they can go all the way. Tonga by 30.