The Harmony 9s tournament has lived up to its reputation as a Rugby League tournament that celebrates all cultures with Lebanon claiming the Under 18s title for northern hemisphere teams, while the Pacific nations tasted success through Samoa (Under 16s) and NSW Maori (Open).
Syria won its way through to the Under 16s final but was narrowly beaten by Samoa 14-12 after leading 10-4 at half-time.
Lebanon’s victory broke the winning run for Pacific nations at the two-day Harmony 9s tournament at Croom Regional Sporting Complex, with Tonga (Open) and Cook Islands (Under 18s, Under 16s) also winning the women’s finals.
“Here it’s more about playing for your cultures – it really grabs them. I played for Lebanon more than 20 years ago and I remember how it felt,” Lebanon coach and former Cedars player Tony Sakr told nswrl.com.au.
“It’s very dear to them to, their heritage.
“It’s easy to bring them together with that love of family, of culture and of Rugby League … it’s a wonderful mixture.”
Lebanon hung tough with NSW Maori in the first eight-minute half (4-all) but then skipped away in the second half after scoring an 80-metre try to take the lead. A third try two minutes from full-time (16-4) sealed the result.
Maori scored a consolation try in the final minute but fell just short (16-10).
Lebanon’s Jacob Fahim was named Player of the Match.
NSW Maori got the ball rolling in the Open men’s final with an intercept try in the second minute against Tonga for a 6-0 half-time lead. They ended up winning the match 12-4 to secure consecutive Harmony 9s trophies.
“I was part of this last year – we just keep building and rising to the occasion. It’s a very good feeling,” NSW Maori captain Zakauri Clarke said.
“It means a lot to all of us being Maori.
“We care about our culture … we get around each other and couldn’t be happier at what we’ve done in getting our values and heritage out there for all to see.”
The Under 16s Samoan side not only did a traditional war dance at the start of the game - where they beat Syria with a try three minutes from full-time – but also performed an encore for their supporters on the sidelines.
“The beauty about this is that the guys are really proud about their heritage,” Samoa coach Jason Folomu said.
“They just want to get out there and perform the best they can. That bond is one of the main things that got them across the line – they just want to play for each other and for Samoa.
“There’s a term we use ‘uso’ and it means ‘my brother, I am your keeper’. You saw that today.”
Player of the Match was Samoan captain Cedric Peti-Talofa.