League: All the good, the bad and triumphant

By Paul Lewis

Michael Brown picks his best and worst moments of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

There was no more dramatic nor brilliant try at the World Cup than that of Shaun Johnson in the semifinal for the Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images
There was no more dramatic nor brilliant try at the World Cup than that of Shaun Johnson in the semifinal for the Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images

Best game

It wasn't just the game of the tournament but the game of the century so far. England looked on course for a famous victory at Wembley before Shaun Johnson scampered through to score with only 20 seconds on the semifinal clock. Johnson then needed to land the conversion to send the Kiwis through to the final. He did. It had already been a terrific game up until that point but it was fitting it had one last twist. England fans might disagree.

Worst game

There was nothing wrong with Australia's 64-0 win over Fiji. In fact, there were some good moments as the Kangaroos ran in 11 tries - but it was a shame it was in a semifinal and added fuel for critics of the tournament . It confirmed how far ahead the Big Three are from the rest and how critical it is for other teams to improve for the credibility of future World Cups.

Biggest hit

It's hard to go past Konrad Hurrell's thundering tackle on Cameron Ciraldo, which left the Italian second-rower hospitalised and needing surgery on a lacerated pancreas. Hurrell, who opted to play for Tonga instead of the Kiwis, hit Ciraldo in a legitimate tackle in his side's 16-0 win at Halifax which scuppered Italy's hopes of playing New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

Best try

Shaun Johnson's match-winner against England was the most dramatic, Konrad Hurrell's barrelling run against the Cook Islands among the most brutal and Bryson Goodwin's against Scotland, when he rounded off a flowing move started by Issac Luke and featuring Kevin Locke and Sonny Bill Williams, one of the most beautiful. But one stands above the rest. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's first try against England included moments of great skill by multiple players - not least of all Dean Whare's amazing back-flick when he was mid-air over the sideline. As Phil Gould might say, wow.

Worst miss

It's often said the margins between success and failure are small and that was patently illustrated at the World Cup. Shaun Johnson hit the upright with one kick at goal but it didn't prove costly. In contrast, Papua New Guinea would have qualified for the quarter-finals had David Mead landed a regulation kick from virtually in front of the goal.

Best story

The US team have been the success story of the tournament. Not only did they qualify for the quarter-finals in their first World Cup but the New York Times also ran a two-page spread on them and children's group The Wiggles made up a song about them that went viral and included lyrics calling on President Barack Obama to carve the face of Joseph Paulo on to Mt Rushmore.

Biggest blow-up

The tournament got off to an inauspicious start when England kicked Gareth Hock out of the squad for breaching team discipline and coach Steve McNamara walked out of a press conference when pressed on what was going on inside the England camp. "Look, I'm not going to answer any more questions on it," he told journalists who repeatedly enquired why James Graham had been left out of the team for the game against Australia. "If you want to carry on with that question, we'll stop. That's the last chance now." He made good on that promise when quizzed on the matter again, saying, "I've got to go now, boys, because the bus is going". McNamara must have known it would be another 30 minutes before the No10 bus went past Millennium Stadium.

Best player

There have been some fabulous players on show such as Sonny Bill Williams, Danny Brough, Greg Inglis, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Cameron Smith, Issac Luke and Sam Burgess but Johnathan Thurston just edges the prize for the player of the tournament. Thurston had been named man of the match three times ahead of this morning's final and had orchestrated much of Australia's passage to the last game.

- Herald on Sunday

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