Lebanon in sevens heaven
THE theory that seven-a-side football is nothing more than a try-a-thon was blown away by Lebanon over the weekend, with the Cedars building their unbeaten title on a platform of rock-solid defence.
Lebanon proved themselves the standout side of the tournament, thrashing Sydney Metro Aboriginal Allstars 44-16 in a lopsided final on Sunday afternoon.
While the Cedars were slick in attack, it was defence that won the title.
"We knew if we could hold sides out in defence and get two or three tries in front we would be hard to beat," team manager Anthony Elias said.
"Defence was the cornerstone, we attacked in defence which allowed us to attack when we had the ball."
In sweltering conditions, the Cedars' supreme fitness was also a key factor.
"A lot of the players have been doing pre-season training with NRL clubs so they were a bit fitter," Elias said.
"That helped a lot, especially today.
"The heat was a big leveller, but generally speaking I think we covered it okay."
From the early exchanges of the final, it was clear Lebanon held the upper hand.
The Cedars led 16-0 after five minutes and took a 20-4 lead into the break.
They didn't let up in the second stanza, piling on the misery for Sydney Metro, who simply ran out of puff after a string of tough matches, including a 36-32 semi-final win over Malta in extra time.
Elias said the $10,000 winners cheque will help fund Lebanon's charge towards the 2008 World Cup.
"We are building for the World Cup and this will help," Elias said.
"Every year we also play in the Mediterranean Cup against France and Morocco so some of this money will go towards airfares and player insurance.
"We have just started the game in Lebanon, so the money will help there as well.
"We have five University sides playing and by the 2008 World Cup I think there will be pressure from the League to use some home-grown players.
Elias said the Cedars will definitely be back next year.
"There is no use doing a hit and run, we will have to come back and defend our title," he said.
Lebanon had plenty of stars throughout the weekend and Elias found it hard to pick out a best player.
"All these guys are training to get NRL contracts and all contributed to the win," Elias said.
"Adnan Saleh was playing his second sevens tournament with us and he went very well.
"Adam Elizbaidieh and George Nadaira were also very good."
Elizbaidieh finished the competition as equal leading tryscorer with Macksville's David Pickvance and Simon Micallef (Malta), while Pickvance was leading point-scorer with 46 points.
Maltese captain Ben Sammut was player of the tournament, with Orara Green play-maker Troy Robinson finishing third despite only playing one match in the finals round.
Malta finished third after beating Sydney Bulls 12-8.