New Zealand managed to overcome surprise package Lebanon in a 34-12 win – but they were made to work extremely hard for it.
The Cedars, packed full of NRL stars such as Mitchell Moses, Adam Doueihi and Jacob Kiraz, were in no mood to lie down and take a Kiwis bashing.
And Lebanon actually crossed first through Josh Mansour after a New Zealand defender ripped out the ball from a Mitchell Moses kick, but the Kiwis hit back almost immediately through Kenny Bromwich.
New Zealand were on the front foot for most of the first-half, but stern Lebanon defence kept them at bay.
Despite that, the Cedars finally cracked when Nelson Asofa-Solomona took a Brandon Smith offload to crash over under the posts to finally send the Kiwis into the lead.
That seemed to galvanise Michael Maguire’s men and Peta Hiku was the next to grace the scoresheet on the half-hour mark after jumping out from dummy-half for a soft effort.
Joseph Tapine clashed heads with teammate Asofa-Solomona which meant the Canberra Raiders forward had to be taken off as the Kiwis were forced into a reshuffle.
The Cedars came out after the break in the same fashion as they did the first – on the front foot. And with Abbas Miski’s delightful finish out wide and Moses’ brilliant conversion, Lebanon were back to within just six.
Buoyed by Moses, Lebanon should have had another moments later when Mansour broke down the right, but despite his kick being caught by Andrew Kazi, stern New Zealand defence kept their opponents out.
From the resulting set, the Kiwis broke down the field and Dylan Brown was on hand to back up a brilliant Joey Manu break to send a dagger into the hearts of the Lebanese.
It went from bad to worse for the Cedars as Manu’s class shone through and he backed up his own kick to step his way through the Lebanon line. Rapana continued his perfect record to make it 30-12.
In and amongst all that, Adam Doueihi was sent off for mouthing off at referee Grant Atkins.
With that, New Zealand began to run riot with Rapana the next on the scoresheet off a superb looping Manu pass, but the winger missed his first kick of the night.
Brutal hits and great play were exchanged before the referee blew his final whistle following a rip-roaring affair.
1 Joey Manu, 2 Ronaldo Mulitalo, 21 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 4 Peta Hiku, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Dylan Brown, 14 Kieran Foran, 8 Jesse Bromwich (C), 9 Brandon Smith, 10 James Fisher-Harris, 11 Isaiah Papali’i, 12 Kenny Bromwich, 13 Joseph Tapine. Subs (all used): 3 Marata Niukore, 16 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 17 Briton Nikora, 22 Jeremy Marshall-King
Tries: K Bromwich, Asofa-Solomona, Hiku, Brown, Manu, Rapana
Goals: Rapana 5/6
1 Jacob Kiraz, 2 Josh Mansour, 4 Brad Morkos, 16 Travis Robinson, 5 Abbas Miski, 6 Adam Doueihi, 7 Mitchell Moses (C), 19 Kahlil Rahme, 15 Andrew Kazi, 8 Kayne Kalache, 11 Elie El-Zakhem, 12 Charbel Tasipale, 13 James Roumanos. Subs (all used): 9 Mikey Tannous, 10 Hanna El-Nacha, 17 Jalal Bazzaz, 21 Josh Maree
Tries: Mansour, Miski
Goals: Moses 2/2
Referee: Grant Atkins