RLWC: Meninga blasts ref after lacklustre win
A LACKLUSTRE Kangaroos side overcame a gallant Lebanon to keep their unblemished World Cup campaign intact with a 34-0 win.
Australia started slowly and never really found their groove. They were cruelled by fundamental handling errors in a performance which saw them score just twice before the half-time break.
A late flurry of points flattered the score line for Australia. Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga was left frustrated by the officiating of England referee James Child.
"One of the slowest games I've seen for a while - 21 penalties, a lot of stoppages," Meninga said. "We want to see a good game of rugby league. We want to be allowed to play a lot more. We had three penalties in the first game against England and not many last week. All of a sudden both teams were penalised for a lot of things both teams were getting away with.
"It's our showpiece, we should be allowed to play footy. It was frustrating."
While the Australian team is headlined by a host of million dollar players including Cooper Cronk, Ben Hunt and Cameron Smith, the bulk of their opponents were part-timers.
Australia finished on top but Lebanon walked away from the 21,127 crowd - largely Lebanese fans - with their reputation enhanced in the first ever meeting between the two countries.
Australia lacked fluency with the ball but marched into their quarter finals match against Samoa in Darwin having conceded just 10 points from their opening three games, with Meninga labelling the defence as "outstanding".
The Kangaroos followed a similar path to the 2013 World Cup title, giving up 22 points from their three pool games.
Meninga's side may be without prop Aaron Woods for their do or die clash on Friday night after he was placed on report for a dangerous tackle on Tim Mannah.
Lebanon will need to ask more questions in attack if they are to challenge the giant topping Tonga but they showed enough in their back to back performances against England and Australia that they should not be taken lightly.
Cameron Munster scored twice to take his Test tries tally to four in just two games while James Maloney, Boyd Cordner, Dane Gagai and Tom Trbojevic also crossed.
The tone could have been set early for Lebanon, who kicked the ball out on the full to start the game.
But after repelling the Kangaroos early they conceded first points when Munster scored after a wide shift eight minutes in. Australia's next try came when Panthers teammates in waiting Regan Campbell-Gillard and Maloney took advantage of space created by Cronk for Maloney to cross and give Australia a 10-0 half-time lead.
Worryingly for the Kangaroos they completed at just 67 per cent at half-time, making double the the errors of their counterparts. Australia's error count finished at 15.
A piece of Munster brilliance helped ignite the Kangaroos in the second half as skipper Cameron Smith watched on from the sideline after being rested for the second 40 minutes.
Smith said his side lacked "fluency".
"We came into the sheds at half-time and I could see the frustrations," Smith said. "I was quite frustrated myself. We couldn't get any roll on with the footy. Defensively I was very happy with what we produced. We got frustrated and then we went searching a little bit. Searching for some points instead of working towards building pressure."
From a tap re-start Munster sliced through two tiring Lebanese defenders and stepping around fullback Anthony Layoun to score 10 minutes into the second half.
Cordner scored five minutes later to give the Kangaroos a 22-0 lead while Gagai scored late off a Cronk cross-field kick before Trbojevic scored with the final play of the game.
Cedars coach Brad Fittler described his side as "banged up" with skipper Robbie Farah struggling with a heel problem and Chris Saab taken from the field with concussion.
"A little bit disappointed," Fittler said. "It didn't help we had a few blokes knocked out. We were disappointed in our last 10 minutes. The fact we didn't score a try was disappointing. We got out-powered really.
"We are a bit buckled."
AUSTRALIA 34 (C Munster 2 B Cordner D Gagai J Maloney T Trbojevic tries J Maloney 4 C Smith goals) bt LEBANON 0 at Allianz Stadium. Referee: James Childs. Crowd: 21,127.