Australia produced a dominant display in front of a world-record crowd to beat New Zealand 34-2 in the final of the Rugby League World Cup. The Aussies have steamrollered every team in their path during the course of this tournament and are now world champions for the 10th time.
Prior to the game, there was much talk of New Zealand’s shock victory over the Kangaroos in this fixture five years ago. But per The Guardian, Australia coach Tim Sheens reportedly spoke to his players about their previous final defeat in an attempt to alleviate any lingering complacency.
For Australian supporters, any of those fears would have been allayed almost immediately, as their team stormed out of the blocks. They went off at a rip-roaring pace, and in doing so, they set a stunning tempo that their opponents failed to cope with.
Billy Slater—an injury doubt prior to the game—and Cooper Cronk both ran in tries in the opening exchanges, and Jonathan Thurston kicked two penalties. New Zealand could only respond with a goal kick as Australia went up 16-2 at halftime.
You expected New Zealand—who snatched a late, late win in the semifinal against England—to respond. But they couldn’t get a foothold in the game as the Aussies put them under unyielding pressure.
That was no more evident than when the excellent Slater ran in another try almost immediately after the restart. With a comfortable lead to hand, the Kangaroos began to enjoy themselves—Brett Morris in particular, who bagged a brace in the second half.
The 34-2 scoreline flattered New Zealand, who in truth looked a little sapped of intensity after their semifinal exploits. Sheens' team ran the Kiwis ragged with an intelligent and varied kicking game.
Old Trafford, Manchester. Attendance: 74,468
New Zealand 2
Tries: Slater (2), Cronk, Morris (2); Goals: Thurston 7
Here’s a selection of reaction from the rugby league world after Australia’s remarkable performance and 10th World Cup triumph:
Australia coach Tim Sheens, from Sportal.com:
I am extremely proud. Our defence was great and our attitude was terrific. I hope the 13-man code is pushed to the fore in this country (England) by this game. It's a great privilege for me to coach this team. We came to this tournament to win but you count nothing until the siren goes.
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney, from Sportal.com:
I thought Australia's performance was outstanding. They were ruthless. For us to have a chance we needed a lot of things to go our way and they didn't. We just couldn't match them – they did everything right. We are disappointed but we are a young side and there is some talent coming through so we need to learn from this experience.
Jonathan Davies, from BBC Sport:
Australia did the simple things and I thought their kicking game was immense. They got away from their line easily and when the chances came, they took them. They were fantastic and I haven't seen such a one-sided display for a long, long time.
And a little more from social media: