AUSTRALIA 34 LEBANON 0
Australia could be without their first-choice props for the quarter-finals after Aaron Woods and David Klemmer were placed on report for dubious tackles in a scrappy win over Lebanon.
The Kangaroos kept the Cedars scoreless but the scoreline, bloated by two late tries, flattered Mal Meninga's men.
Woods and Klemmer, best mates and soon-to-be Bulldogs teammates, will face a nervous wait as the match review committee scrutinises two ugly tackles they were involved in during the Allianz Stadium encounter. It could leave Meninga with selection headaches, welcome and otherwise, for the clash against Samoa.
Lebanon coach Brad Fittler believed Woods would escape sanction for his lifiting tackle on Tim Mannah.
"They looked after his welfare, they tried to hold him up off the ground," Fittler said. "He should be ok for next week."
Meninga believed his players wouldn't have a case to answer and hoped there would be a more free-flowing game next week.
The undefeated Australian coach was happy with his side's defensive effort but hopes there will be fewer stoppages in the quarters.
"It's our showpiece, we should be allowed to play footy," Meninga said.
In order to remain competitive against the tournament favourites, the Cedars needed to do everything right. They kicked off and the ball went out on the full. Chris Saab, who missed the opening game after knocking himself out in the warm up, finally got a taste of World Cup action. The experience, one he had waited 17 years for, lasted just 22 minutes. The veteran forward was knocked senseless when he ran into the head - or perhaps it was the shoulder, the match review committee will decide - of Klemmer. The Bulldogs prop was placed on report and, like Saab, his chances of playing next weekend are in the hands of others.
Another Lebanese forward, Andrew Kazzi, also joined Saab on the sidelines. Kazzi got his head in the wrong place attempting to tackle Regan Campbell-Gillard and also succumbed to concussion. At least he was able to return to the fray.
Michael Lichaa didn't finish the game. The Bulldogs hooker suffered a calf problem in the 58th minute. Knowing what was at stake - a likely quarter-final clash against Tonga next week - the medical staff erred on the side of caution.
Despite the dramas, the outsiders made a fist of it. They kept Australia's halftime lead to just 10-0, a remarkable effort given the gulf in class. The lead would have been bigger had Josh Mansour - we have finally seen him and doppleganger Abbas Miski at the same place at the same time - dropped the ball with the tryline beckoning. The gaffe brought the biggest cheer of the night.
For 50 minutes, the Cedars held the Roos to just two tries. How close could they keep it? Could we about to see the biggest upset of them all? But then Cameron Munster with left- and right-foot steps that would have made the opposing coach proud, ensured normal service resumed when he scored his second.
It was an eventful night after an eventful week for James Maloney. Returning after missing the French clash due to personal reasons, his involvement was high. Most of it was positive. The, at time of writing, Cronulla pivot scored a try, set up two and took over the goalkicking duties when Cameron Smith was given a breather. He also turned the Steeden over a couple of times early in the game. His try was the result of a beautiful pass from Penrith forward Regan Campbell-Gillard. We could be seeing a lot more of that at the foot of the mountains next season.
Before the game, Meninga set his side the goal of completing 80 per cent of their sets. It's a target only Lebanon achieved. This was a scrappy performance from the hosts.
The biggest ramifications for Meninga's side occurred not at Allianz Stadium but on the other side of the Tasman. Tonga's upset win over New Zealand means a Kangaroos-Kiwis final, most people's prediction, can't eventuate. Instead, the old rivals will likely meet in the penultimate round.
Lebanon, playing in the biggest game in their history, were gutsy to the end. They scrambled in defence and played well above themselves to limit the scoreboard damage. Their reward is a likely progression into the quarters.