Australia yesterday retained the Rugby League World Cup title with a 6-0 win over England in a brutal defense-oriented final.
Boyd Cordner crashed over in the 15th minute after Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk worked across field and Michael Morgan popped a short ball onto the second-rower at close range.
Smith converted the try and, despite a string of opportunities for both teams, it was the only score in 80 minutes in humid sub-tropical conditions in Brisbane.
The English squad went into the final as underdogs after skipper Sean O’Loughlin and hooker Josh Hodgson were ruled out by injuries, but performed beyond expectations against a team that had beaten them 18-4 in the tournament opener.
It was the Kangaroos’ 11th World Cup title and first on home soil since 1977. Australia’s victory extended a drought for British teams that dates back to 1972.
“It’s amazing, mate,” said Smith, who this year has won the National Rugby League premiership with the Melbourne Storm, the State Of Origin series with Queensland and the World Cup with Australia. “To finally get a World Cup victory on home soil. It’s been quite a long time.”
“It was one of the toughest football games I’ve played in my entire career. We’ve gone back-to-back World Cup victories now, and very glad to have the Kangaroos as the No. 1 team in the world,” he added.
The Australians conceded only 16 points in six games, and Smith said the focus on defense made the difference in the end.
Australian five-eighth Morgan crossed in the 46th minute after a strong run by Matt Gillett, but the television official ruled no try and penalized the hosts for obstruction.
England had two strong chances to equalize, with winger Ryan Hall going close in the first half before he was bundled into touch in a covering tackle.
Josh Dugan’s ankle tap on England center Kallum Watkins saved an almost certain try late in the second half.
England prop James Graham said the one-try scoreline did not reflect the nature of the game.
“Tough one to take, but what a spectacle,” he said. “There were a couple of times where the half-break was on, but fair play to them for their scramble.”
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