El Arf breaks the duck for Morocco

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The Independent Online

Morocco achieved their first ever victory in a 13-a-side game, nosing ahead of the brave Japanese in the closing minutes of a highly entertaining Emerging Nations World Championship encounter at Hull Kingston Rovers.

Morocco achieved their first ever victory in a 13-a-side game, nosing ahead of the brave Japanese in the closing minutes of a highly entertaining Emerging Nations World Championship encounter at Hull Kingston Rovers.

Morocco do not get many chances in international rugby league to throw their weight around, but they set out to do that to the Japanese.

Some fiercely determined tackling from Japan, surely the smallest national team ever to take the field, kept their try-line intact, but insistent pressure produced three penalties put over by the Moroccan stand-off, Jean-Philippe Martinez, for a six-point lead.

The Japanese, coached by Huddersfield's Tony Smith, fought back in stirring fashion, levelling the score three minutes before half-time, their winger Yusuki Kanemuri forcing his way over from close range. Kanji Inose kicked the conversion.

With their whole-hearted defence and ability to strike on the counter attack Japan looked likely winners at the start of the second half, especially when they edged ahead through Inose's penalty. But the game turned on a passage of play nine minutes from time. The Moroccan hooker, Mohamed Sabri, craftily stole the ball in a tackle and the ever-willing Japanese defence was finally found wanting by Ouahib Fryed's raid down the right and Morad El Arf touched down in the corner.

Martinez added the goal to complete a proud night for one of rugby league's infant nations and their coach, the former Fulham winger, Hussaim M'barki. However, defeat was poor reward for a superb effort from the Japanese, particularly their full-back and man of the match, Kyouichiro Nakashima.

Japan: Nakashima; Kanemura, Komori, Imazono, Itonaga; Inose, Okamura; Kahui, Mitobe, Watanabe, Konoshi, Kobayashi Ogata. Substitutes used: Fujita, Imanaga, Hiraki, Passi.

Morocco: Fryed; Sabir, Maazauz, Manar, Faham; Martinez, El Hasnaoui; El Jabruni, Sabri, Laaribi, Bliel, Moutawakil, Oumansouri. Substitutes used: Lamsika, El Arf, M'Barki, Antar.

Referee: R Silverwood (Eng).

* Canada Cougars should have felt at home at Keighley but Italy took control early in their Emerging Nations match match, running in five tries and landing one goal in the first 17 minutes as they romped to a 66-6 victory.

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