A Cameron Munster double has sparked Australia to a 34-0 victory over Lebanon despite a defiant showing from the lower ranked side.
Despite it being a ‘home game’ for Australia, Sydney Football Stadium echoed with the cheers of Lebanese supports for much of the match, inspiring the Cedars to unsettle the world-class Kangaroos.
The win means Australia will progress through to the quarterfinals to face off against Toa Samoa while Lebanon are likely to play Tonga in Christchurch unless France upset England on Sunday.
A poor completion rate and 15 errors throughout the match prevented Australia from running away with the game.
But as Lebanon kicked off to get the match underway, they would have wished to start over after the ball was kicked out on the full putting the Cedars on the back foot from the get-go.
Australia seemed to move up the field with ease as their forwards charged into Lebanon’s strong defensive line.
But a lack of execution early on hurt the Kangaroos, making an uncharacteristic nine errors in the first half much to the frustration of coach, Mal Meninga.
Despite the scrappy start Australia eventually broke the Cedars line in the 9th minute after James Maloney fired a flat ball to Cameron Munster who got in-between two Lebanese defenders to cross over for a relatively stock-standard opening try.
The scream of the mostly Lebanese crowd was enough to put Cameron Smith off as he moved the ball wide of the post, failing to add the extras.
As the match got back underway, physical defence from Lebanon forced multiple errors and uncompleted sets from Australia preventing them from dominating the match.
But in the 24th minute Australia capitalised on a Lebanon error when fullback Anthony Layoun dropped a towering Australian kick right on his goal line.
After getting the ball back, Australia let the ball sing straight away through Cooper Cronk, and into the hands of forward Regan Campbell Gillard, before offloading to halfback James Maloney, who crossed over beneath the posts.
Australia clung to the 10-point advantage for the rest of the first half, holding off some dangerous Lebanon attack but also unable to do any further damage of their own.
As the second half got underway, Lebanon were still in the game as the unsettled Kangaroos tried to work the mistakes out of their game.
And in the 50th minute an impressive solo effort from center, Cameron Munster, provided Australia with some much-needed momentum as they slowly but surely begun to build their lead.
Munster showcased his fancy footwork to zig-zag his way through the Cedars defensive line for his fourth try in just two test appearances.
Now leading 16-0, Australia started to look more comfortable as their combinations started to click.
And just five minutes after Munster’s try, former Sydney Roosters teammates Boyd Cordner and James Maloney combined for Australia’s fourth try.
A crafty grubber through the line gifted Cordner with an easy put-down, as Cameron Smith made no mistakes converting to give Australia a 22-0 advantage.
As the full-time siren drew closer, Australia’s class started to shine through as they ran in two tries in the final five minutes of the match to inflate the scoreline to 32-0.
The win allows Australia to progress through to the quarterfinals to face off against Toa Samoa next week.
James Coman1 | @JamesComan1
Rugby League World Cup 2017 Reporter