A RECORD crowd for a rugby league international saw Australia regain their world title with a scintillating 34-2 demolition of New Zealand in the final at Old Trafford, writes Peter Smith.
A full house of 74,468 turned up expecting to see a tight contest at the end of an absorbing World Cup tournament, but Australia were in a different class.
They may be the best defensive team of all time. Australia conceded 20 points to England in the tournament’s opening game, but kept their tryline intact after that - going 404 minutes without the opposition scoring a try.
In their six games the Aussies conceded only 24 points and kept four clean sheets.
New Zealand couldn’t tie the Kangaroos down as the rampant Aussies powered into a 16-2 interval lead, made the game safe with their third try just 47 seconds after the break and added two more before the end.
Johnathan Thurston got Australia off the mark with an early penalty, but Shaun Johnson levelled for the Kiwis in similar style as the holders became the first team to score against the Kangaroos in four matches.
Billy Slater - recalled at full-back after missing the semi-final win over Fiji - outjumped the defence to collect Thurston’s kick for the opening try on 18 minutes.
Cooker Cronk had a touchdown ruled out by video referee Ashley Klein, but crossed from Darius Boyd’s kick on 29, Thurston converting both tries and landing another penalty.
Slater scored his second from Boyd’s inside pass and the goal opened a 20 point gap at the start of the second half.
Brett Morris touched down at full stretch from Jarryd Hayne’s kick on 51 minutes, Thurston again converting.
New Zealand had spells of pressure, but with nine minutes left Sonny Bill Williams - who was way off his game - slung out a pass which was intercepted by Hayne and he made it into the Kiwis’ half before putting the supporting Morris in.
Man of the match Thurston’s seventh goal completed the scoring and wiped out the Aussies’ bad memories from their final defeat by New Zealand five years ago.