In Lebanon the Lebanon and Saudi youth teams played in a two match series. News from the tournament and Lebanon.
Saudi Select and the Lebanese RL Federation have named their squads for the second U18s MENA clashes, which this year has been expanded to two games. The sides will meet in Beirut on Valentine’s Day and again two days later.
The hard work of the Saudi coaches is bearing fruit with ten of their 19-man squad having come through the ranks from the U14s. It is led by captain Hasan Zakzouk who has made the most appearances for the Camels, and is keen to beat the hosts after the sides drew 18-all in 2012.
“We were so disappointed not to win last year and we are determined to bring the cup back to Jeddah this time,” he said. The visitors are further bolstered by the return of Rackan Al Moukhtar who spent two weeks with Warrington Wolves’ youth department and decided to go to college in the north west of England to continue his development as a player.
The squad completed its final warm-up game against the Jeddah Barbarians; a team made up of coaches, JRFC players and some Saudi Select U16s, which ended in a 24-all draw.
The young Cedars, who have not beaten Saudi Select at any level since the Middle East’s first youth representative match in 2009, are also confident of registering a series win, with coach Nayef Abi Said naming a 33-man train-on squad from 16 schools in north and central Lebanon as well as Beirut.
“We certainly have a promising team and players with a bright future in the game,” he said. “We have prepared well and I’m confident that the boys will perform well in the upcoming games.”
LEBANON U18 33-MAN SQUAD
Ibrahim Ibrahim, Omar Marhaba (Amir Fakher Dine School Tripoli), Ali Kanj, Andre Khoury, Karim Tannir (Broumana High School), Ayman Sultan (Carmalyeh Mjdlaya), Raymond Sabat (Central College Jounieh), Jad Rizk (College Melkart), Adam Dahbach, Yassine Ladkani (David Karim School El Koura), Fawaz Abdo, George Farah, Fadi Ghoulem, George Meneem, Karim Mkeri, George Yazbeck (Ecoloe National Orthodox Balamand), Carl Baroud, Karim Dandan, Daniel Habbal, Mark Khauli, Michael Moualem, Kareem Saadeh, Sultan Saadeh (IC Hamra), Mohamad Zrayka (International School El Koura), Christopher Dalati (Lycee Franco Libanais Naher Ibrahim), Samer Shmaysem (Lycee Libanaise), Nour El Baba (Mina College), Hassan Aloush(Namouzja School), Maamoun Soufen (Saba Zreik), Brian Hajjar (Sabis International School), Yehya Hussein (Technical School Abi Samra), Abed El Karim About, Jamil El Rawi (Zehrieh Public School, Tripoli)
SAUDI SCHOOLS SELECT U18 19-MAN SQUAD
Hasan Zakzouk (c), Ahmed El-Obeid, Saleh Madhoun, Michael van Gruenen, Omar Kandil, Osama Abdullah, Bradley Ellis, Nawaf Alquadaibi, Kweku Ofori-Darko, Kareem Selim, Omer Rathore, Rami Howell, Abdulrahman El-Sharkwei, Ahmed El-Meligy, Muhammed Sillah, Rackan Al Moukhtar, Karim Baassiri, Amr Abotteen, Mohammed Khadra.
Lebanon won the MENA under 18s title, narrowly taking both clashes against Saudi Schools select in Beirut.
They ran out 30-18 winners in the opening game on Valentine’s day, prop Chris Sessine with two early tries as the hosts led 20-14 at the break at AUB.
Bradley Ellis, Karim Selim, Ahamd El Obeid and Rackan Al Moukmtar crossed for the visitors, El Obeid with their sole conversion; Joe Mouawad, Ray Sabat, George Farah and outstanding hooker Omar Marhaba with touchdown for the Young Cedars, Tarek Azouri landing three goals.
Stand off Ray Sabat was the hero two days later as Lebanon regained the title, crossing for three tries in a 26-22 success. Saudi Select dominated the opening exchanges but could not score, Sabat putting the hosts ahead against the run of play. Three tries in quick succession, two to Ahamd El Obeid and one from Rackan Al Moukmtar saw the Junior Camels race to a 16-6 lead, Omar Marhaba reducing it at the break. Sabat and a George Farah goal levelled, Youssef Safadi and Sabat’s third together with Farah’s third goal giving Lebanon a ten point lead with ten minutes to play. Saudi full back El Obeid claimed his hat track and a third Kweky Ofori-Darko conversion set up a great finish but Lebanon held on.
Lebanon coach Nayef Abisaid was delighted with the campaign. “There’s so much belief in these guys,” he said. “I have got a real sense of pride and it’s been great working with these young men and watching how good they’ve become. It’s been a long time coming and the LRLF has been working hard on its future stars and today is the proof that we are on the right track.”
“Congratulations to Lebanon, we’ve had some fantastic tussles in the past and this year was another one,” noted Dave Kinkead, Saudi Select’s coach. “ I couldn’t be more proud of the way we fought back after the first game and with the group we’ve got I know we’ll be back next year to try and regain our crown.”
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