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).