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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

'Outstanding' NRL star Mitchell Moses guides Lebanon to historic first win at Rugby League World Cup

Lebanon win first-ever match at the World Cup, beating France 29-18, as Tonga smash Scotland and Ireland overcome Italy

Api Pewhairangi of Ireland, centre, is tackled during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match against Italy at Barlow Park in Cairns, Australia. Chris Hyde / Getty Images
Api Pewhairangi of Ireland, centre, is tackled during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match against Italy at Barlow Park in Cairns, Australia. Chris Hyde / Getty Images

Brad Fittler praised "outstanding" Mitchell Moses after the Paramatta Eels half-back guided the Lebanon to a dramatic 29-18 win over France and a first-ever win at a Rugby League World Cup on Sunday.

The Australian-born playmaker was at the heart of Lebanon's attack as he scored a try, set up another two and landed a drop goal.

"It's good that he feels that he can do that. That's the key," Lebanon coach Fittler said in a pitchside interview.

"There was a lot of other good things about his game. I think he made some opportunities early, missed a pass on the right-hand side but just got back into it. Didn't overcook it.

"Sometimes you see him, he's running around and just frustrated or trying to overdo things. I thought his control was outstanding."

Winger Travis Robinson added the icing on the cake with his second try in the final minute, sealing a first World Cup win for the Cedars after losing all their matches in the 2000 event.

The victory puts Lebanon in prime position to progress from Group A along with co-hosts Australia and England to the quarter-finals. France face the Australia on Friday, while Lebanon meet England on Saturday, with the top three nations in the group progressing to the knock-out stage.

Star-studded Tonga showed they could prove the wrecking ball of this year's World Cup with a 50-4 demolition of Scotland.

The Tongans, bolstered by the inclusions of NRL powerhouses Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita, ran in nine tries with former Australia Test centre Michael Jennings nabbing a hat-trick.

With Taumalolo leading the way Tonga rushed in seven tries to lead 38-0 at half time in Cairns, North Queensland.

It was more sedate after the resumption with the Tongans fumbling their way in a 12-4 second half but they were still far superior to the fourth-ranked Scotland.

Next Saturday's showdown with Samoa in Hamilton will be critical in determining how the finals layout looks for each team.

"I really think Tonga are capable of getting there and on their day they can cause an upset," former New South Wales State of Origin coach Laurie Daley said.

Ireland pulled off the first upset of the tournament with the Wolfhounds stunning Italy 36-12 in Cairns.

Having amassed just 14 points at the 2013 World Cup, the Irish matched that tally inside 20 minutes and then kicked on in the second half after the Azzurri had threatened a comeback with tries either side of the interval.

"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 English Championship side Sheffield. "The last six years I have had with Ireland that is our best performance without a doubt."

The Irish face a big test against the Papua New Guinea Kumuls in Port Moresby next weekend.