NZ advances to RLWC quarterfinals after crushing Ireland

LEEDS, England (AP) — New Zealand qualified for the Rugby League World Cup quarterfinals after halfback Jahrome Hughes inspired them to a 48-10 victory over Ireland at Headingley on Friday.

Hughes missed the Kiwis' opening two matches because of injury but scored two of their 10 tries and had a big hand in several more in his World Cup debut.

The Kiwis clinched top spot in Group C with a third win from three matches, while Ireland's exit will be confirmed if Lebanon beats Jamaica on Sunday in Leigh.

New Zealand faces a potential disciplinary worry after prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, fresh from serving a three-match ban carried over from the National Rugby League, was sinbinned for an ugly high tackle on replacement front-rower Dan Norman just before halftime.

Norman failed a head injury assessment and didn't return. The Wolfhounds lost another of their substitutes, Henry O'Kane, in similar fashion early in the second half. They already started the match without first-choice props Liam Byrne and Jaimin Joliffe due to suspensions.

Coach Ged Corcoran believed referee Robert Hicks should have taken stronger action against Waerea-Hargreaves and wants him issued with a lengthy ban.

“I’m filthy with it,” Corcoran said. “I’ve got to be careful what I say but that's a game changer. It was a bit of a dog shot, I’m not going to cop that."

New Zealand coach Michael Maguire defended his player and was confident he will be free for the quarterfinals next weekend when they will likely face Fiji.

“He hit him on the shoulder and it rolled up a bit,” Maguire said. “We'll have to wait and see but I think he'll be all right.”

The crowd of 14,044 mainly favored the Wolfhounds, but grew to admire the sublime skills of Hughes and halfback partner Dylan Brown. They were paired for the first time in the tournament.

Hughes showed electric footwork to bag the first try, and produced deft kicks to set up scores for winger Jordan Rapana and center Peta Hiku in the space of seven minutes. Hiku's second try was also laid on by Hughes as New Zealand reached halftime 24-6 up.

Irish winger Louis Senior scored a try in each half to go joint top of the scoring charts with six in three games.

But a classy New Zealand was powering away with five more tries in the second half, including seconds for Rapana and Hughes, who was rested after an hour's work.

The Kiwis will need to address their goalkicking after Rapana and Brown each missed three of their five conversion attempts.

“We'll do a bit of practice with that,” Maguire said. “If we score a few tries under the post we'll be right.”


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