Ireland will be in the World Cup in Australia next year, a late Chris Bridge penalty giving them the draw they needed to win their group on points difference at Dewsbury last night.
The rugged Lebanese were heading for victory when Scott Grix dropped a routine high kick to present Frank Samia with a try. The Irish stuck to the job, however, and four minutes from time a high tackle from Hassan Salah – a Lebanese failing all night – gave Bridge an easy kick to take his side through, while the Lebanon face a much more difficult second chance to qualify with Samoa barring their way.
"You could see how much both teams wanted to avoid that," said the Irish coach, Andy Kelly. "I'm really proud of what we've achieved because we had to show some real resolve."
The Irish set out their stall from the first tackle of the match, a legal but brutal one from Wigan's Eamonn O'Carroll, which knocked the ball out of the grasp of a stunned Ray Moujalli. It looked the sort of opportunity that needed to be seized upon and it was when Paul Handfort's kick set up a try for Liam Finn.
The elusive George Ndaira struck back for the Lebanese, picking up a pass off the ground to scoot over. The Irish stretched their lead, thanks to some wonderful footwork and a clever kick from Sean Gleeson, touched down by Handfort.
Salah had a try disallowed for a marginal offside but Ireland were worth their half-time lead. Yet it was badly eroded eight minutes into the second half when Chris Salem barged over the Irish line and Toufic Nicolas then landed the goal from the touchline.
Some desperate Irish defending was helped when Charlie Nohra was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle. Another penalty gave Bridge the chance to bring them some breathing space, but most of the drama was sandwiched into the last few minutes.
Lebanon: Nicolas; Saleh, Samia, Salah, El Zbaideh; Farah, Ndaira; Nohra, Clark, Moujalli, Koborsi, Saab, Salem. Substitutes used: Kourouthe, Soultan, Hachache, Joseph.
Ireland: Grix; Blanch, Littler, Gson, Stewart; Handforth, Finn; Cassidy, Beswick, O'Carroll, Prescott, Corcoran, Doran. Substitutes used: Bridge, Gibbons, Treacy, Kerr.
Referee: A Klein (Keighley).Reuse content