New Zealand 2 Australia 34: World Cup triumph for Aussies

Australia celebrate their victory in the Rugby League World Cup Final at Old Trafford.
Australia celebrate their victory in the Rugby League World Cup Final at Old Trafford.
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WORLD order is restored. Australia are rugby league champions once more.

No matter what they said, the Kangaroos were smarting after losing their World Cup title to New Zealand five years ago.

They had been kings of the globe since 1975 and it hurt.

But today, in front of the sport’s biggest ever international attendance of 74,468, the Green and Golds produced one of the most clinical team performances you are ever likely to see in any sport to regain that trophy and round off what has been a splendid World Cup.

Billy Slater, the full-back who hobbed off with a knee injury in their quarter-final rout of USA, returned with two tries to ease the personal anguish of the error that cost his side so badly in 2008.

But it was hard to single out a man-of-the-match given the incredible levels of skill, composure and determination shown by all of Tim Sheens’ ruthless squad.

Admittedly, New Zealand suffered an early blow when Roger Tuivasa-Sheck - their eight-try winger - limped away after his first carry, clearly not recovered from the injury he suffered against England at Wembley a week ago.

However, he would have been helpless like the rest of his Kiwi team-mates as as Australia - so disciplined and efficient - took such a firm grip of proceedings.

Even Sonny Bill Williams, the newly-crowned world player of the year, was left powerless, strangled out of the game by his opponents’ dominance.

He desperately tried getting New Zealand a try near the death but only served to see Jarryd Hayne intercept, race 50m and furnish Brett Morris with his second of the game.

Remarkably, this Australia team has gone FIVE games without conceding, not letting in a try since England’s Josh Charnley scored in the 74th minute of the opener at Cardiff six weeks ago.

Slater’s first and Cooper Cronk’s try, allied to two Johnathan Thurston penalties and a conversion, saw them 16-2 ahead at the break.

New Zealand really needed to score first in the second period to have any hope of retaining their title but Slater popped up after just 41 seconds to finish off another smartly executed raid down the left and that, effectively, was that.

Kieran Foran’s desperate tackle denied Slater his treble but Morris slid over after a brilliant pass from replacement Josh Papalii had sent him away to combine with Hayne.

Man-of-the-match Thurston converted all five tries and, though, New Zealand pressed back the Australia defence was just impenetrable.

In all honesty, they rarely looked like being broken which, given this Kiwi side had caused so much damage to so many others in this tournament, says plenty about the calibre of the new champions.