New Zealand, Tonga, England win at WCup
SYDNEY (AP) — New Zealand and Tonga joined Australia in qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Rugby League World Cup on Saturday with one round to spare in the pool stage.
Co-hosts New Zealand thrashed Scotland 74-6 win in Christchurch and Tonga beat Pacific Island rivals Samoa 32-18 in Hamilton in a match that passed peacefully after the build-up was marred by violence.
New Zealand and Tonga are now both assured of their spots in the playoffs regardless of who wins their Group B clash on Nov. 11, while Samoa and Scotland will face each other on the same day with the winner advancing and the loser being eliminated from the 14-nation tournament.
At least 12 people were arrested as an estimated 200 Samoan and Tonga fans - armed with sticks, poles and a machete - clashed in Auckland in the lead-up to their match.
But after impassioned appeals for calm from police, community leaders and members of both teams, the game went ahead without any further trouble.
Tonga, bolstered by seven premiership winners from Australia’s National Rugby League, opened up a 14-6 lead over Samoa at halftime after Michael Jennings scored two tries.
Peni Terepo, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Manu Ma’u added tries for Tonga in the second half while Jazz Tevaga, Ben Roberts and Timoteo Lafa replied for Samoa.
New Zealand’s 14 tries to one victory over Scotland saw it top its previous highest score in test matches - 72-0 over a Pacific Island combination in 2008 - while Scotland suffered its heaviest ever international loss.
Te Maire Martin and Peta Hiku scored three tries each for the Kiwis while veteran winger Jason Nightingale crossed twice.
Kenny Bromwich, Dean Whare, Elijah Taylor, Russell Packer, Joseph Tipene and Shaun Johnson also scored tries for the home side. Johnson added nine conversions for a personally tally of 22 points.
Scotland scored a late consolation try through Oscar Thomas, nine minutes from full time.
“Conceding tries is something we don’t want to happen but just one try,” New Zealand captain Adam Blair said. “I’m sure the coach will be happy with that but the players will look back and try to fix it.”
Group A leaders Australia sealed its quarterfinal place on Friday by beating France after previously defeating England.
England enhanced its chances of reaching the playoffs when it posted its first win of the tournament Saturday, beating Lebanon 29-10. After its first-up loss to Australia, England needed a win to stay in second place behind Australia in Pool A after Lebanon opened with a 29-18 win over France.
England dominated the first half through its big forward pack, keeping a high completion rate and scoring three tries to one to lead 22-6 at the break.
But after an early second half try to Tom Burgess, England went off the boil and Lebanon matched them with a try apiece after halftime.
England winger Germaine McGillvary, who scored a first-half try, was placed on report after a biting allegation.
On Sunday Papua New Guinea meets Ireland, Italy faces the United States and Fiji plays Wales.
The top three teams from Groups A and B will qualify for the quarterfinals. Only the winners of Group C — which involves Papua New Guinea, Ireland and Wales — and Group D — which involves Fiji, United States and Italy — will join them in the last eight.