A SUSPECTED broken arm for Jack Johns capped a horror afternoon for Italy as Ireland caused the first World Cup boilover.
The Irish ran away 36-12 winners on a sweltering afternoon where their substitutes did their best to avoid sunburn by wearing straw hats on the sidelines.
English-born winger Liam Kay posted a first-half try double to give Ireland a lead they never really looked like surrendering.
They had racked up more points by halftime than they were able to score their entire disastrous Cup campaign four years earlier.
The Irish deserved a couple of pints of Guinness to celebrate their shock win, which was paying $5 with the bookies during the week against an Italian team with NRL stars James Tedesco, Paul Vaughan and Nathan Brown.
For Italy, the potential loss of Johns will be cruel with the playmaker forced from the field straight after halftime with an arm injury.
Johns clutched at his left arm and the trainers wasted no time rushing him from the field.
He was a sorry sight as he watched the remainder of the game hunched over nursing his arm.
The 20-year-old son of Matty Johns was pumped to make his international debut, and forced to lead the Azzurri into action without experienced playmaker Terry Campese.
Campese failed to overcome a calf strain and with Johns now looking in doubt, his return next week against the USA in Townsville is suddenly more vital.
Little had gone right for the Irish in the lead-up to their Cup opener, with torrential rain greeting them when they first arrived in north Queensland with the hope of acclimatising to the conditions.
They were forced to train indoors, and their only serious hitout was an opposed session against Tonga during the week.
But they raced out of the blocks with a try to long-haired Kay, who was one of the stars of the much-hyped Toronto Wolfpack during their inaugural season.
George King doubled the lead in the tenth minute, and when Kay dived in the left corner for his second approaching the half hour, Italy _ with the advantage of NRL stars James Tedesco, Nathan Brown and Paul Vaughan _ looked in real strife.
Justin Castellaro raced 70m for an intercept try before halftime, and a comeback looked on the cards when Nathan Milone scored straight after the break to get the Italians back to within eight points.
But Ireland refused to give in, scored against the run of play, and made sure the result when Tedesco slipped over and Michael Morgan was able to collect the ball and score the easiest of tries.
IRELAND 36 (L Kay 2 K Amor G King L McCarthy-Scarsbrook M Morgan tries L Finn 6 goals) bt AZZURRI 12 (J Castellaro N Milone tries J Mantellato 2 goals) at Barlow Park. Referee: Grant Atkins.
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