Taumalolo inspires trouncing

It was worth the wait for Jason Taumalolo's first game of the Rugby League World Cup in Cairns on Sunday.

All the talk about the ex-New Zealand lock's controversial defection did not prove a distraction as Tonga cruised to a 50-4 win over Scotland in their Rugby League World Cup opener.

Taumalolo came up with the most runs (18) for his team, eating up 197 metres, making 19 tackles, and a line break in his 57 minutes on the field.

Tonga threatened to hammer the record books as much as the Bravehearts in their nine tries to one rout in front of 9216 fans.

Parramatta flyer Michael Jennings bagged a first half hat-trick, equalling the most in a Cup match by a Tongan.

He equalled Tevita Vaikona's three try haul against South Africa in 2000.

The ex-Kangaroo also took his overall tally to six in his fourth match for his adopted country.

And Australia's Cup record 110-4 thumping of Russia in 2000 looked under threat when Tonga romped to a 38-0 halftime lead.

But Scotland dug deep in the second half, even getting on the board when halfback Danny Addy dived over from dummy half in the 62nd minute for the Bravehearts only points of the match.

However, winger Daniel Tupou completed his double as Tonga crossed for two tries in the final seven minutes to ensure the blowout.

Tonga's 46-point romp was just two short of their biggest Cup winning margin - 48 in their 66-18 rout of South Africa in 2000.

Taumalolo muscled over for a try of his own in the 17th minute, revelling in his new environment after controversially turning his back on New Zealand.

Tonga belied their world No 11 ranking, running amok in the first half with a side stacked with NRL stars including Andrew Fifita, Will Hopoate and Konrad Hurrell.

In contrast, the Bravehearts didn't live up to their world No.4 ranking after being depleted by pre-tournament injuries to key NRL players hooker Peter Wallace, fullback Lachlan Coote and centre Kane Linnett.

The game was played in quarters after the heat rule was evoked with humidity at times nudging 80 per cent.

Tonga will be expecting a tougher hit-out against Samoa in Hamilton on Saturday.

Scotland's misery may continue as they next play New Zealand at Christchurch on Saturday.


Meanwhile, Italy endured Murphy's Law, losing their halves Terry Campese and Jack Johns before being thumped 36-12 by Ireland in their World Cup opener in Cairns on Sunday.

World No 12 Italy may have boasted NRL stars James Tedesco, Paul Vaughan and Nathan Brown but needed fortune to go their way to topple a Wolfhounds outfit stacked with seasoned English Super League players.

But it seemed whatever could go gone wrong did for the Azzurri at a sweltering Barlow Park as world No 8 Ireland opened their World Cup account.

First Italy lost ex-Kangaroos pivot Terry Campese (calf) before the kick-off.

Then the Wolfhounds jumped to a 20-0 lead after 30 minutes with a try scoring double to Toronto Wolfpack winger Liam Kay.

The hammer blow appeared to come in the 43rd minute when halfback Jack Johns - son of ex-Kangaroo Matthew and nephew of Immortal Andrew - came off with a suspected fractured arm.

Yet Italy somehow bounced back in draining humidity to cut the deficit to 20-12 by the 48th minute when centre Nathan Milone crossed from a Ryan Ghietti kick.

That's where the resistance ended as Ireland ran out seven tries to two winners in a match staged in quarters after the heat rule was invoked.

It was a morale-boosting victory for Ireland who endured a winless 2013 World Cup after making the quarter-finals in 2000 and 2008.


In Canberra, Lebanon beat France 29-18 as Mitchell Moses scored a clutch seven points in three minutes.

Scores were level at 18-apiece with just seven minutes remaining at Canberra Stadium, when Moses broke the deadlock with a field goal set up by Robbie Farah.

The Parramatta NRL star then sealed the win with a piece of individual magic in the next set, chipping and chasing for himself to help Lebanon win their opening game of the tournament.

Travis Robinson added the icing on the cake with a try in the final minute.

Lebanon needed every bit of experience out of their NRL contingent after being pushed by a high-octane French side that pushed the boundaries in attack.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES (Caption: Jason Taumalolo of Tonga runs the ball during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match between Scotland and Tonga in Cairns).