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Ireland, Lebanon win Sunday matches at Rugby League WCup

October 29, 2017

England's John Bateman, right, gets away from Australia's Dane Gagai, left, during their Rugby League World Cup game in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

CAIRNS, Australia (AP) — Toronto Wolfpack winger Liam Kay scored two early tries to help Ireland build a commanding 20-0 lead on its way to a 36-12 win over Italy at the Rugby League World Cup on Sunday.

It was a morale-boosting victory for Ireland, which failed to win a match at the 2013 World Cup after making the quarterfinals in 2000 and 2008.

“The first 40 minutes are probably the proudest I have been of a team I have coached,” said Ireland mentor Mark Aston, who is also coach of Championship side Sheffield. “The last six years I have had with Ireland that is our best performance without a doubt.”

Former Australia playmaker Terry Campese was ruled out of the match for Italy with a calf injury. The 33-year-old Campese, now a part-time footballer for Queanbeyan Blues in the Canberra competition, qualified to play because of his Italian grandfather.

In another match Sunday, Lebanon beat France 29-18 behind Mitchell Moses’ clutch seven points in three minutes. With the score level at 18-18 with seven minutes remaining, Moses kicked a field goal. The Parramatta National Rugby League player then sealed the win with a try after a chip and chase.

In the final match of the opening round, Tonga overwhelmed Scotland 50-4 after leading 38-0 at halftime.

Co-hosts Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea all made winning starts. After Australia beat England 18-4 in the opening match of the tournament in Melbourne on Friday, Papua New Guinea posted its largest-ever test victory in beating Wales 50-6 in Port Moresby, while New Zealand defeated Samoa 38-8 in Auckland.

Also Saturday, Fiji beat the United States 58-12. Jarryd Hayne, who played a season with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, scored one of Fiji’s 11 tries.

Fiji team officials said Sunday that prop Kane Evans, who scored one of Fiji’s tries, sustained a suspected broken wrist and could be out for the remainder of the tournament.

Three teams from each of Group A (Australia, England, France, Lebanon) and Group B (New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland and Tonga) will advance to the quarterfinals along with the winning teams from Group C (Papua New Guinea, Ireland, Wales) and Group D (Fiji, United States, Italy).

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