By John Davidson, (RLP RLWC Correspondent) Date: 1/12/13
Australia have won back the World Cup with an emphatic 34-2 victory over New Zealand in front of a world record 74,468 fans at Old Trafford.
A two-try effort from a returning Billy Slater from injury, along with a masterful display from halves Cooper Cronk and Jonathan Thurston, was the catalyst for the Kangaroos one-sided win.
Little seemed to go right for the 2008 Cup winners who struggled to hold on to the ball or repeatedly break the Australian defence.
The Kangaroos well-oiled machine was well in control in the first half. The Australians kicked off but it was the Kiwis with the first error thanks to a Jesse Bromwich knock-on. This gave the Kangaroos an early chance and they went to the air, but Manu Vatuvei got a well-timed hand to the ball. Another bomb went up soon after and this time Kevin Locke took it perfectly.
Four minutes in and Jonathan Thurston got the Aussies on the board with a penalty, after Kieran Foran blocked Billy Slater chasing a kick. A few minutes later and New Zealand had the ball on the Australians line but poor ball control saw the chance lost. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck went off injured at this point, robbing the Kiwis of one of their real game-breakers. It was a terrible blow considering the form the Roosters winger has been in during the tournament.
The hits were coming in heavy and hard, with both teams not shirking from the battle.
On 13 minutes Shaun Johnson equalled the scores at 2-2 with a penalty goal. But it was the Kangaroos who were looking much sharper. At the 17 minute mark Cameron Smith made a smart run and kick from dummy half, trapping Locke in his own in-goal where he was tackled after a great chase from Jonathan Thurston and Brett Morris.
The return set of six was not wasted. Another bomb went up from Thurston and Slater out-leaped Foran to score the game’s first try. The bombs kept coming and Locke did well to take another five minutes later.
But on 25 minutes it was another two bombs that almost led to the Kangaroos next try. Morris tapped the ball back to Hayne, who freakishly bombed to Cronk to cross. But the video ref found a push in the lead-up on Isaac Luke and it was ruled no try.
It mattered little. Four minutes later Cronk was in again, this time with the four points awarded. The ball went wide to Darius Boyd who made a break, then grubbered to Cronk on the inside who regathered to score. Thurston converted to take the score to 16-2.
A knock-on by Slater three minutes before half time near the Aussie line gave the Kiwis a chance, but great defence killed the opportunity. On the next play five Australian defenders slid and dragged Manu Vatuvei into touch five metres from the tryline.
The break did little to inspire the Kiwis.
Less than a minute into the second half and the Kangaroos scored a try made and delivered in Queensland. Smith darted from dummy half, Thurston ran and dummied, found Boyd who then passed to Slater to score his second try.
This left New Zealand with a mountain to climb.
On 52 minutes it got bigger with the Australians manufacturing another brilliant try, arguably the best of the game. Josh Papalii drew two defenders and put Morris in space with a miracle offload. Morris kicked to Hayne, who juggled the ball and then kicked himself to Morris who flew in and grounded the ball.
It was a sensational try and one that saw Morris put his body, as he crashed into the advertising board after scoring it. With Thurston converting, the game was effectively over at 28-2 with 28 minutes left.
The Kiwis huffed and puffed for the rest of the match but never got going. A bomb at the 55 minute mark from Johnson was too long and Vatuvei slammed into an advertising board.
The Australian defence was just too relentless. With 18 minutes to go the Kiwis had a number of repeat sets on the Kangaroos line but couldn’t find a way through.
The Aussies almost increased their lead several times but a couple of last passes went astray. Then Morris scored his second try, and put the icing on the victory, with nine minutes left. Hayne intercepted a Sonny Bill Williams pass and ran 70 metres to find Morris to score.
Slater was sensational in his return at fullback, while fellow Queenslanders Smith, Thurston and Cronk controlled the game expertly. Thurston kicked superbly, converting seven from seven, and was a well-deserved man of the match award winner.
Williams was surprisingly quiet for the Kiwis, while the New Zealand halves Foran and Johnson were contained well. The much vaunted Kiwi pack never really got out of first gear.
At Old Trafford in front a world record crowd Australia has reasserted its dominance on the world of rugby league.
New Zealand 2, Goals: Johnson (1).
Australia 34, Tries: Slater (2), Cronk, Morris (2), Goals: Thurston (7).