By John Davidson, (RLP RLWC Correspondent) Date: 27/10/13
The Kangaroos were given a scare by a determined England in Cardiff but managed to fight back to record a 28-20 win in the World Cup opener.
England started the game brilliantly, scoring in the seventh minute through Ryan Hall. Captain Kevin Sinfield missed the kick from the sideline, but England found the tryline again in the 20th minute thanks to a giant bomb, and this time the skipper converted to make it 10-0.
The Poms were unlucky not to be further in front at this stage – the Australians were not in the match at all, dropping simple passes and giving away several penalties. England also may have had another try in the 15th minute after forward George Burgess barreled over the tryline. He looked to have got the ball down, but it was hard to be certain, and the video referee ruled no try. It was an unlucky blow for the World Cup hosts at a crucial moment.
The Kangaroos continued their poor start, with Paul Gallen losing the ball and Billy Slater rushed into a poor pass to give away possession. England were monstering the Aussies up front with a very spirited and committed display.
But in the 26th minute the brilliance of Greg Inglis came into play. Cooper Cronk put up a towering bomb and Inglis soared high to claim it, then offloading to Jonathan Thurston to claim Australia’s first try.
England started to rack up giving away soft penalties, and pressure from Australia on the English line paid off in the 36th minute when Greg Bird barged over. An avalanche of possession and penalties was getting the Kangaroos back into the game.
Then on the stroke of halftime came the sucker-punch, the blow that really broke English hearts.
Off a scrum 60 metres out Billy Slater dummied, beat his man and raced away to score in the corner right on the bell. Thurston put the nail in the coffin and converted, giving the Aussies a somewhat underserved 18-10 lead at the break.
England had lowered their intensity for 14 minutes and the Kangaroos had scored 18 points, enough to make any English fan cry.
Australia started the second half with bit of flair combined with menace, Slater foiled an English 40-20 with an acrobatic knock of the ball back into touch. Josh Charnley then made an error on the other touchline, putting a foot out by a millimeter or two and gifting Australia the ball right near his line, and the Kangaroos duly accepted the gift.
Brett Morris scored in the corner from a scrum move to make it 22-10.
England, to their credit, did not give up and came back with a 51st minute try to George Burgess after a good short ball. They were now only six points behind but a series of penalties staved off their continued pressure.
Thurston kicked one of the penalties for it to become 24-16 before Darius Boyd crossed in the corner on 70 minutes to seal the win for Australia.
A late try to England made the score closer, thanks to a mistake from Slater when he passed to no-one, but Australia finished the match 28-20 winners.
It was a game that had everything – some big hits, an impressive comeback and nine tries to boot. It lived up to its billing as the World Cup opener and if the rest of the tournament is as entertaining as this, rugby league fans are in for a treat.
England were very good but they will be ruing the 20 minutes that they went to sleep, just before and just after halftime, which allowed the Kangaroos back into the match.
Australia were rusty and have a lot to work on, the lack of a proper warm-up match certainly did not help. But they displayed their typical resilience, best personified by the Queensland Origin side, not to panic and to stay calm, work back into the game and take their chances when presented.
The win means the Kangaroos should miss out on facing New Zealand in the semi-finals, with a much easier path to the final now awaiting. England will gain a lot confidence from this match, after rattling the Aussies early, but will have a tough task of unseating the Kiwis in the semis. They may also have to do it without enforcer Sam Burgess, who was put on report for a high shot on Sam Thaiday in the 63rd minute.
Australia 28, Tries: Bird, Thurston, Slater, Boyd, Morris, Goals: Thurston (4).
England 20, Tries: Cudjoe, Hall, Burgess, Charnley, Goals: Sinfield (2).