WINGER Ryan Hall scored a first-half hat-trick of tries as England avoided a potential banana skin in their must-win World Cup Group A match against Ireland.
England coach Steve McNamara had accused his players of taking their eye off the ball in their pre-tournament defeat by Italy but this time they looked fully focused from the start as they established an unassailable 30-0 lead after 23 minutes.
Hall led the way with three of his side’s eight tries and fellow winger Tom Briscoe made the most of his recall to the side while Kallum Watkins, Rangi Chase and Brett Ferres all touched down to delight a sell-out crowd of 24,375 crowd at Huddersfield.
There were also valuable contributions from full-back Sam Tomkins, stand-off Rangi Chase and centre Leroy Cudjoe as England bounced back from their opening 28-20 defeat by Australia.
They will now need to beat Fiji in their last group game in Hull next Saturday to secure second place, while Ireland must pull off an unlikely win over tournament favourites Australia in Limerick next Saturday to keep their dream alive.
England were particularly destructive down their left channel where the Huddersfield duo of Ferres and Cudjoe looked perfectly at home in familiar surroundings.
They combined effectively twice in the first 12 minutes to get Hall over for two of the easiest tries he will surely ever score for his country, as he first drew level with Tomkins and then overtook him as England’s all-time leading scorer.
As if not to be outdone by his fellow winger, Briscoe struck twice in three minutes to enhance his claim for a regular place ahead of Josh Charnley.
He took advantage of an off-balance Pat Richards to touch down Chase’s high kick and then gathered Tomkins’ pass on halfway to sprint half the length of the pitch for his second.
England looked full of confidence after their lively start and they delighted the exuberant crowd with a free-flowing move that enabled Hall to complete a 20-minute hat-trick.
Skipper Kevin Sinfield began it by putting Watkins through a gap on halfway and handled again before Ferres and Cudjoe combined once more to get the Leeds winger over at the corner.
Ireland simply could not get their hands on the ball and they were left clutching at thin air when Tomkins sliced through to get Ferres over for a deserved try which made it 30-0.
Ireland showed plenty of resolve and kept their line intact for the rest of the first half but shoddy handling prevented them making a serious tilt at the England line.
They raised their game at the start of the second half and a certain amount of niggle began to creep into the match.
Playing into a stiff breeze and occasional driving rain, England failed to reproduce the flowing rugby that characterised their first-half play, although Chase lit up proceedings with a delightful show of handling that almost brought him a try.
McNamara changed his side around ten minutes into the second half, switching Sinfield to hooker to give Gareth Widdop a run at stand-off and the Melbourne man quickly made his mark.
Widdop’s kick to the corner was palmed back by Briscoe into the arms of the grateful Watkins for England’s seventh try, and Sinfield kicked his fourth goal to extend his side’s lead to 36-0 on the hour.
With the game won, McNamara brought off Sinfield and the outstanding Ferres but it did not stop the scoring.
Tomkins was always a threat and he showed his class after 68 minutes when he spun out of tackles to open up the Ireland defence before producing a delicate kick for Chase to touch down for England’s eighth try.
Widdop’s conversion wrapped up the scoring, although winger Damien Blanch went close to opening Ireland’s account late on as he fumbled Finn’s kick to the corner.