The Canada Wolverines showcased a dazzling display of rugby league to overpower the Lebanon Cedars in front of a vocal 2,400 crowd braving the wet Toronto weather at Lamport Stadium last night. Canada dominated in the opening exchanges between the two nations who made history with their first international match against each other. Lebanon suffered in the early exchanges when they lost a front rower after he came off second best in a mighty clash with opposing prop Keegan Watcham Roy.
Although the Wolverines seemed to have the early momentum, a mistake in their own half allowed for Lebanon to apply some pressure on the Wolverines goal line. An attacking kick at the end of the set saw Canadian winger Tony Felix spill the ball which dribbled over the dead-ball line just before the Lebanese could pounce.
Felix quickly made amends however when he became the first try scorer after sweeping backline play down the right flank close to the Lebanese line. The kick missed making the score to 4 – 0 after twenty minutes. Just moments later, the Wolverines turned defence into attack after jolting a ball loose from a big hit on the Cedars. This time Stu McReynolds was the benefactor crossing on the left edge of the field and converting his own try to take the score to 10 – 0.
The momentum was in full swing now with the Wolverines again on attack after bustling runs from lock Chris Chalmers and barnstorming second rower Enoch Walmawa. The trend of the outside backs benefitting from the hard working forwards continued for the Wolverines as centre Geoff Bylund crossed for Canada’s third try. The kick from in front was converted tacking the score to 16 – 0.
When the Lebanese got their opportunity to attack, a promising backline play came unstuck when Tony Felix plucked the ball from the air, intercepting a pass and sprinting ninety metres down the sideline to score against the run of play. The kick from out wide was unsuccessful taking the score to 20 – 0 at half time.
The break came at the right time for Lebanon who needed to come up with a plan to stem the flow of Canada. With the breeze at their back in the second half, Lebanon used it wisely as they kicked early for territory to apply pressure on the Canadians. A 40/20 from halfback James Boustani put the Cedars hot on attack ten minutes into the second half. The Cedars looked certain to score when a whole appeared in the Canadian defensive line; however, a desperate tackle from Captain Jamie Lester stopped the Cedars fullback just inches from the line. Unfortunately for Lester that would be his last play of the game as he was aided from the field with a torn hamstring.
The Canadians then resumed to attack when a deep kick by Matt Wyles was coughed up by a Lebanese player for Tony Felix to scoop up and get brought to ground close to the Cedar’s line. The following play saw the crafty Matt Wyles burrow in for Canada’s fifth try. Another McReynolds conversion saw the score blow out to 26-0. As the rain began to fall again, Canada’s ball control started to suffer and Lebanon took full advantage through successive tries to Boustani and Mohamed Merheb. Boustani was successful with both conversions from out wide bringing the score to 26-12.
Momentum had now swung Lebanon’s way, but a loose pass allowed a swooping Robin Legault to pick the ball up and race seventy metres to the try line again against the run of play. McReynolds was on target from out wide and the Wolverines pushed their lead to 32-12. Lebanon were next on the score sheet after a kick into the Canadian’s in-goal was mishandled by two Canadian defenders resulting in a try to Lebanon’s Toni Sassine. Boustani’s conversion was good for a 32-18 score-line with little time remaining.
Playing out the final minute, Canada had one more big play when winger Justin Redguard broke away from three would be tacklers on a seventy metre dash only to seemingly be tackled short of the line. Miraculously, Redguard bounced out of the tackle in a roly-poly fashion as he sensationally crossed the line. McReynolds missed the last kick to finish the game with a 36-18 score-line. Coach Richie Moore commented “It was a great team performance. Everybody played an important role and the whole team should be proud of their performance. I know I am”. The Canada Wolverines next match is against the 12th ranked USA Tomahawks in what promises to be an electrifying battle at Lamport stadium on September 8th.
Macron 3 Stars
1. Tony Felix
2. Justin Redguard
3. Stu McReynolds
Tries: Tony Felix (2), Stu McReynolds, Geoff Bylund, Matt Wyles, Robin Legault, Justin Redgaurd
Conv: Stu McReynolds (4)
Tries: James Boustani, Mohamed Merheb, Tony Sassine
Conv: James Boustani (3)