The Kangaroos put on a “masterclass” to crush New Zealand in the final of the Rugby League World Cup, avenging defeat at the hands of their fierce rivals five years ago, Australia’s press said yesterday.
Australia scored five tries to nil in Saturday’s 34-2 thrashing in Manchester in a victory welcomed by the media as building on recent successes, including wins for the Wallabies on their European tour, triumph in golf’s World Cup and success in the first Ashes Test.
“The Kangaroos produced one of their truly memorable performances to smash the Kiwis,” the Sunday Telegraph said. “Played in front of a rugby league international record crowd of 74,468 at the famous home of Manchester United, Australia put on a history-making performance with a stunning five-tries-to-nil annihiation.”
Standoff Johnathan Thurston won his fourth man of the match of the tournament and told the newspaper: “It’s a dream come true. It’s been a long six weeks, but to win a World Cup with your best mates, it doesn’t get any better. We’ve been building towards this [performance].”
Australia reclaimed the Rugby League World Cup from New Zealand on Saturday in the most one-sided final in the competition’s 59-year history.
Billy Slater and Brett Morris both crossed twice and Cooper Cronk added the other try as the Kangaroos produced a devastating performance to win the trophy for the 10th time in 14 editions.
“It is one of the best team performances I have ever been part of,” said Australia captain Cameron Smith, who was sprayed with champagne by his jubilant teammates as he lifted the trophy to the backdrop of fireworks at Old Trafford.
New Zealand forward Sonny Bill Williams was bidding to become the first player to win World Cups in both rugby codes, but a subdued performance by the world player of the year was summed up when his pass was intercepted in the lead-up to Australia’s final try, a length-of-the-field score finished off by Morris in the 72nd minute.
Australia finished the tournament without having conceded a try in 404 minutes since their win over England in the opening match five weeks ago. In their five games since then, they shipped only four points in five matches, scoring 244.
For Australia’s 30-year-olds Smith, Greg Inglis and Thurston, who kicked all seven of his goals, it completes the resumes of three of the modern-day rugby league greats in probably their final World Cup.
And it goes a long way to making up for the 2008 final, when New Zealand stunned their fierce rival in Brisbane to claim the sport’s biggest prize for the first time.
“Five years is a long time to get another opportunity, but a little bit of that disappointment has been taken away by this win,” Smith said.
This was the heaviest victory in a final, eclipsing Australia’s 40-12 victory over the Kiwis in the same stadium in 2000.
“I thought their performance was pretty faultless,” New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney said.
Australia had not been beaten in three years heading into the match, but crucially, New Zealand had defeated their great rival in three of the past four major finals they had met — in that 2008 World Cup and in the Four Nations in 2005 and 2010.
It quickly became apparent, though, that there would not be another upset here in a match played in front of 74,468 — a record crowd for an international.