Quarter Finals: Tonga v Lebanon preview
It happened. It really happened. For days, weeks, months. We've all talked about it. But it actually happened.
Here we are at the Quarter Final stage with Tonga being touted not only as a deserved Pool winner, but as a potential World Cup threat. No matter how much last week meant to this competition, nor how much it meant to Tonga, it simply will mean nothing if they cannot back it up against Lebanon. The way the Lebanese have fought through their pool matches, victory won't be as easy as many people may think.
No matter how much we all want to move onto the new week, it's impossible to forget the events of Christchurch. The forward pass call going against Tonga that put New Zealand in a gleaming position right before the half-time break. The moment Tuimoala Lolohea picked off a pass from Russell Packer to put Tonga in front for the first time. The try in the corner to not only seal a hat-trick for David Fusitua, but also a win for the team in red. The passion that Tonga put on before the match in standing up to the almighty New Zealand haka was certainly matched on the field.
But if it's passion we are talking about, then surely Lebanon have got to be part of the conversation. Playing their first World Cup in seventeen years, losses to Australia and England have had people ignoring the eventual scorelines for the absolute fight that Lebanon took to their more fancied oppositions. Despite a lack of experience and an injury list that has seen Brad Fittler cause the need to extend the World Cup squad, they have never let a game get away from them. For a group of part-time players, a 34-0 defeat against the best team in the world is more than commendable.
Last meeting: Despite the two countries playing for around twenty to thirty years of International Rugby League, this will be the first occasion they will go up against each other.
Who to watch: When will they learn? Call Jason Taumalolo out and you will be punished. Adam Blair certainly felt the wrath of an unstoppable Taumalolo machine that continues to find his high level of form game after game. Alongside front rowers Andrew Fifita and Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Taumalolo has been the key to the Tongan dominance so far in this World Cup. If Lebanon can find a way to stop the monster Tongan forward pack (by all means good luck to them), it could be one massive leap they need to get themselves towards an unlikely victory.
Certainly when looking at the obvious faces to watch for Lebanon, you would be looking at the usual suspects in Mitchell Moses, Robbie Farah and Michael Lichaa. Of course, Lebanon could be hoping that Tonga become somewhat complacant from the events of last week and the aforementioned players, particularly Moses, could be key to sparking whatever attack Lebanon brings to the Tongans.
The favourite: After last week, Tonga as Pool winners will go in as favourites.
My tip: Lebanon will be strong, no doubt about it. But Tonga should overpower them, whether it comes by planned plays or sheer passion, they will more than likely find a way to win and win well. Tonga by 14.