Ireland became the first home nation to win at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup as they beat Italy 36-12 at Barlow Park in Cairns on Sunday.
Ireland took a 20-0 lead thanks to tries from Liam Kay (2) and George King as well as four goals from Liam Finn before Justin Castellaro pulled one back for Italy just before half-time.
Nathan Milone scored the first try of the second half for Italy but Ireland then scored three further tries through Kyle Amor, Michael Morgan and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrok as the Wolfhounds secured a 36-12 victory.
Wakefield Trinity trio Liam Finn, Scott Grix and James Hasson featured for Ireland while St Helens pair Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Kyle Amor started along with Wigan Warriors ace Micky McIlorum.
Terry Campese was a late drop out for Italy while NRL star James Tedesco started at full-back and the Azzurri were skippered by Mark Minichiello.
Ireland were quick to get out of the blocks and scored inside two minutes as they passed it through quick hands down the line to Toronto Wolfpack star Liam Kay who finished well in the corner. Captain Liam Finn successfully added the conversion to put his side in a 6-0 lead.
The Wolfhounds were playing some good rugby in the opening stages and scored again as George King latched onto short grubber from Micky McIlorum. Wakefield Trinity ace Finn converted to make the score 12-0 to Ireland.
Ireland went further in front midway through the first half after Italy conceded a penalty near their own sticks. Finn added the penalty goal and Ireland were in a 14-point advantage.
Kay scored a very similar try to his first on the half hour mark. Ireland passed it down the line to the winger who finished excellently in the corner. Finn’s boot put Ireland 20-0 ahead.
Italy pulled one back late in the first half though as Justin Castellaro intercepted an Irish pass to show a clean pair of heels and run 70 metres to score. Former Hull KR fan favourite Josh Mantellato added the extras but Ireland were still 20-6 in front at the break.
HALF TIME: Ireland 20–6 Italy.
The Azzurri got off to the better start in the second-40, having consecutive sets in the opening minutes. Mantellato cottoned onto a high kick and made a superb pass inside to Nathan Milone who scored. The conversion was good and Italy were only 20-12 behind after 47 minutes.
Ireland soon hit back though as St Helens forward Kyle Amor bulldozed his way over the line, giving Tedesco no chance from such close range. Finn’s boot made the score 26-12 to Mark Aston’s Ireland side.
The Wolfhounds were in good control of the game and scored again in the 59th minute. Tedesco failed to deal with Scott Grix’s grubber and Michael Morgan raced onto the loose ball and scored. Finn added the conversion to put his side 32-12 up.
In the 78th minute, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook sealed the win for Ireland as he burst through a gap in the Azzurri defence to score out wide. Finn failed to convert but the Wolfhounds sealed a fine 36-12 victory.
FULL TIME: Ireland 36–12 Italy.
Ireland – 36
Tries: Kay 2, King, Amor, Morgan, McCarthy-Scarsbrook
Goals: Finn 6/7
Italy – 12
Tries: Castellaro, Milone
Goals: Mantellato 2/2
Ireland: 1. Scott Grix, 2. Shannon McDonnell, 3. Ed Chamberlain, 4. Michael Morgan, 5. Liam Kay, 6. Api Pewhairangi, 7. Liam Finn (C), 8. Brad Singleton, 9. Micky McIlorum, 10. Kyle Amor, 11. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 12. Oliver Roberts, 13. George King.
Interchange: 14. Tyrone McCarthy, 15. James Hasson, 16. Joe Philbin, 17. Anthony Mullally.
Italy: 1. James Tedesco, 2. Mason Cerruto, 3. Justin Castellaro, 4. Nathan Milone, 5. Josh Mantellato, 9. Ryan Ghietti, 7. Jack Johns, 8. Paul Vaughan, 14. Colin Wilkie, 10. Daniel Alvaro, 11. Joel Riethmuller, 12. Mark Minichiello (C), 13. Nathan Brown.
Interchange: 15. Brendan Santi, 16. Shannon Wakeman, 17. Jayden Walker, 18. Joe Tramontana.
Referee – Grant Atkins