Herald rugby league writers Michael Brown, Chris Rattue and Michael Burgess answer three key questions from the Kiwis' loss to Australia in this morning's World Cup final.
Were the Kiwis poor or Australia too good?
Michael Brown: A bit of both but Australia were incredible in a near-faultless display. They suffocated the Kiwis and produced one of the best overall performances seen at international level for some time. To not concede a try in more than five games at this World Cup is a phenomenal achievement. New Zealand needed to send more support players alongside the ball-carrier and needed to hang onto the ball better but they weren't going to beat this Australian side today.
Chris Rattue: The answer to that is blindingly obvious - both, which is how it has been in most rugby league tests for far too long.
Michael Burgess: A bit of both. The Kiwis always had to play the perfect game while the Kangaroos had to be below par and unfortunately neither happened. The injury to Tuivasa-Sheck didn't help - having a centre combination of Goodwin and Glenn in the World Cup final is hardly ideal and the selections of Locke, Goodwin and Taylor were not Kearney's best choices.
What was the key difference between the two sides?
Michael Brown: Australia controlled the ruck. They expertly slowed down New Zealand when on defence and managed to get more speed into their play-the-balls. They adopted a very simple gameplan but, when applied properly, is nearly impossible to stop. The Kiwis thought they might have the edge in the forwards but they were dominated by a pack who were relentless.
Chris Rattue: Too many to mention. For starters though - and this is sad but true - they were just typical Australian rugby league players and our mob were just typical Kiwi rugby league players. There was some kind of excuse for that in the old days but there was also a legitimate expectation that with the NRL stacked with Kiwis being coached by Aussies in a professional environment, this would change. Wrong.
Michael Burgess: Desire and focus - especially in the first 30 minutes. The Kangaroos were hungry and always first to react to any situation while the Kiwis waited for things to happen. Against Australia you have to take the lead and then hang on - it is almost impossible to beat them by coming back. The Australian playmakers especially the halves were also completely dominant.
How should the Kiwis look back on the World Cup?
Michael Brown: Ultimately they will be judged on the final and they weren't good enough. It was a disappointing end to what had been a promising campaign. There is some encouragement for the future, however, given this will be the last World Cup for a number of great Australian players who have taken the game to a new level. Australia had seven players aged over 30... New Zealand had one.
Chris Rattue: They should seek hypnosis or other form of mind manipulation in order to forget about the whole thing as quickly as possible. I'm certainly going to try to although considering the scale of the disaster this may be difficult. Then again, I'm sure they will cope and remarkably quickly. A lot of them didn't seem to play as if they cared all that much at the time. Maybe they were tired, although the Aussies looked remarkably fresh.
Michael Burgess: A missed opportunity. They had the potential to be a truly great Kiwis side but for some reason never fully clicked as a unit. The tournament probably came a year or two too early but that is no consolation..