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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 22:48 GMT
Wales almost upset by Lebanon
Wales 24-22 Lebanon
Wales hung on by their fingertips at a wind-swept Stradey Park as two late Hasan Saleh tries almost gave Lebanon the spoils at the death.
Wales survived a Lebanese onslaught at the start of the second-half, but looked to have made the game safe with a moment of inspiration from Leeds stand-off Iestyn Harris.
He made the telling break which sent Wigan's Wes Davies over under the posts and appeared to have made the game safe for the Welsh at 24-10.
But Lebanon hit back and bowed out of the World Cup in style as the impressive Saleh almost snatched an improbable victory.
His two tries within the final three minutes stunned Wales and highlighted glaring concentration and defensive problems for coach Clive Griffiths.
Loose forward Daher split the Welsh defence with a great dummy to put Saleh away for the first and Saleh then scored again with the final move of the match.
Wales were rattled and had referee David Pakieto not blown up after Hasim El Masri's final conversion, the Lebanese would have fancied their chances of a major upset.
"We were totally in control during the first 25 minutes then Lebanon scored and it gave them some hope," said Wales coach Clive Griffiths.
"Lebanon had been out of the game and then all of a sudden they were back in it.
"Our think tank was not of the highest order during the second-half and in the end we did just enough to win," he complained.
"Having taken a pasting against New Zealand last Sunday, we expected a bit of a backlash from them, but not in quite that fashion."
Wales dominated a one-sided first-half, running in four tries before the Lebanese found their feet with a try of their own from Michael Coorey after 35 minutes.
Wales' tries came from Harris (2), Sterling and Cunningham, but they were not enough to dent the resilient Lebanese.
Before Coorey's opening try the speed and pace of the Welsh back line had threatened a rout, but Lebanon woke up as they adapted to the game.
Wales lost their composure and took their feet off the gas as the first-half drew to a close and that pattern was repeated at the start of the second when Sarem El Masri hacked on a loose pass from Anthony Farrell to score.
Harris then provided what should have been the turning point of the game on the hour when he drifted lazily across the Lebanese defence before injecting an impressive burst of speed.
His inside pass to Wes Davies and his subsequent conversion should have made the game safe for Wales, but they had not counted on Saleh's intervention.
Both sides tackled ferociously throughout the game, with Mr Pakieto happy to let some rather dubious high challenges go unquestioned.
Wales now face the daunting prospect of the rampant Kiwis and a place in the quarter-finals, but Lebanon will be left dreaming of what might have been.
Scorers - Wales: Tries: Harris (2), Sterling, Cunningham, Davies. Cons: Harris 2.
Lebanon Tries: Coorey, S El Masri, Saleh (2). Cons: H El Masri 3.
Wales team: P Aitcheson, P Sterling, J Critchley, K Tassell, A Sullivan, I Harris, L Briers, A Farrell ,K Cunningham, D Whittle, J Morgan, M Jenkins, D Busby.
Lebanon team: H El Masri; S El Masri, Coorey, Saleh, Abbas; Elchab, Khoury; Maroon
(capt), Semrani, Elahmad, Chamoun, Goddard, Daher.
Referee:David Pakieto (New Zealand)
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