League: Australia shows who's boss in dominant performance

By Michael Brown

Sonny Bill Williams, Dean Whare and Kieran Foran of New Zealand show their dejection during the Rugby League World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia. Photo / Getty Images.
Sonny Bill Williams, Dean Whare and Kieran Foran of New Zealand show their dejection during the Rugby League World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia. Photo / Getty Images.

New Zealand 2
Australia 34

For five years it has pained Australia to know they were not world champions. This morning (NZT) at Old Trafford they put that right in a masterful performance.

The Kangaroos suffocated the Kiwis throughout. It was like a python wrapping up their prey.

They did everything efficiently and didn't allow the Kiwis to even get a sniff of a chance - New Zealand's only points came from a Shaun Johnson penalty.

The closest the Kiwis came to a try was when Manu Vatuvei claimed a Johnson bomb in the 29th minute but he was held up inches from the line by a desperate defence.

It was a disappointing end to a good campaign and an anti-climactic final in front of the biggest crowd assembled for a rugby league international.

The Kiwis were disappointing, failing to get a toehold in the game - it started badly when Jesse Bromwich knocked on in the first set and they couldn't recover.

They might have been nervous, they might have been overawed but, regardless, a ruthless Australia took advantage.

The Kangaroos hadn't conceded a linebreak since the opening game against England and they weren't about to change that as they hunted in packs. They extended their record of not conceding a try to five games or 402 minutes, which is a phenomenal achievement irrespective of the strength of some of the teams they faced.

They hadn't had a hard game since the opening match of the tournament and looked a lot fresher against a Kiwis side who were battered and bruised from their last-gasp win over England. New Zealand had hoped the euphoria of last week would have made them battle-hardened but they were on the back foot from the start and couldn't change momentum.

"They were ruthless," Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney said. "They did everything right."
Australia made good metres up the middle as Cameron Smith worked the ruck excellently and their kicking game was flawless.

Their first two tries came from kicks. The first came when Billy Slater climbed to claim a clever Thurston chip and the second when Cooper Cronk snaffled a Darius Boyd grubber and they might feel aggrieved to not have had a third when Cronk was deemed to have been held up by a brilliant cover tackle from Issac Luke.

It was a simple gameplan Australia adopted but something very difficult to stop. Even Sonny Bill Williams couldn't trouble Australia and it ends his quest to be the first player to win both the rugby union and league World Cups.

The Kiwis weren't helped by the fact they lost winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck inside seven minutes when he went off with a recurrence of the leg injury he picked up last weekend. It was a sad sight to see the 20-year-old, who has had such a phenomenal season, limping off in tears.

He wasn't the only player to come in under an injury cloud but another, Billy Slater, was brilliant. He picked his moments to hit the line and was rewarded with two tries. His second, 47 seconds into the second half when Thurston orchestrated an attack down their left, killed off the game.

 Paul Gallen (R) of Australia is tackled by Simon Mannering of New Zealand during the Rugby League World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia. Photo / Getty Images.
Paul Gallen (R) of Australia is tackled by Simon Mannering of New Zealand during the Rugby League World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia. Photo / Getty Images.

It might be the last World Cup for a number of high-profile Australian players and they can now retire happy knowing they can point to the biggest prize on their CV.

The Kiwis should have been better. They turned over possession too often early in the tackle count but it was a symptom of the pressure applied on them. They also missed 30 tackles - Australia missed nine.

But the simple truth is they were beaten by a side who played near-perfect football.
It is a young Kiwis outfit and they will get better but, for now, Australia are the undisputed masters.

New Zealand 2 (Shaun Johnson gl) Australia 34 (Billy Slater 2, Brett Morris 2, Cooper Cronk tries; Johnathan Thurston 7 gls). HT: 2-16

- APNZ

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