Australia triumphed over old foes England 6-0 in the Rugby League World Cup Final in Brisbane on Saturday night. The low-scoring game – a lacklustre contest at times – showed the strength of both teams’ defence. The Kangaroos have now won their 11th World Cup title, most importantly their first on home soil.
Meninga’s record remains perfect after maiden win
Meninga has coached 12 games and won them all since 2016, and his perfect record continued en route to his first World Cup victory. Before Meninga took over, Australia had lost three straight matches against the Kiwis and lost their control at the top of the world rankings. In March 2016, Australia beat New Zealand 16-0 to kick off Meninga’s tenure, and they’ve been dominant ever since. Although it was ugly at times, Australia was the better side with impenetrable defence, and far more attacking conviction. Their discipline in possession was also impressive.
England’s desperation creates a true contest
In a quality similar to his Brisbane Broncos, Wayne Bennett’s England were desperate in defending their line. Australia’s ability to convert their attacking opportunities – by extending sets and producing a strong kicking game – kept England on their heels. England rose to the occasion nicely, as they absorbed a lot of early pressure from the Kangaroos. The only try of the match was scored off numerous repeat sets, taking Australia a fair amount of time to finally break through. The second half was no different, as England made more mistakes early, opening the door for a lot of opportunities for Australia. If not for their great resistance, the margin could have been in the thirties.
Attacking execution proves the difference
As much as England was impressive defensively, their attacking work ultimately decided the contest. Australia’s ability to complete sets and stab in attacking kicks was impressive, whereas England’s spine in particular struggled to do the same. England’s best opportunities in the first half were all bombed, due to handling errors close to the line. The second half was similar, highlighted by Gareth Widdop tossing a poor pass over the touchline after a great break from Jermaine McGillvary; Ryan Hall’s decision-making with kicks left a lot to be desired. With a spine that was heavily outmatched entering the contest, England’s slight weakness proved to be their biggest on the day that mattered.
Another triumph for the Melbourne ‘Big Three’
Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk capped off a great 2017 with a World Cup victory on home soil. The Storm had a memorable season in the NRL, with a dominant regular season before an impressive grand final victory. A State of Origin win for Queensland was achieved with Slater’s return in game two. The three men have been important cogs in the well-oiled machine they run for all three sides, and the performances of Slater in particular in this World Cup has been terrific. The idea of retirement has slid off Slater’s tongue recently, and last night he mentioned the possibility again when asked if the trio will rejoin the Kangaroo jersey.
Tries: Cordner (15m)
Goals: Smith 1/1