Rugby League

Australia canter to World Cup retribution

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Australia thrashed holders New Zealand 34-2 to reclaim the Rugby League World Cup at a sold-out Old Trafford.

The world champions ran five answered tries against the Kiwis in their crushing victory, avenging the shock of the 2008 final, which saw New Zealand claim their sole World Cup success in the tournament's 59-year history.

Braces from Australian duo Billy Morris and Billy Slater, plus a try from Cooper Cronk gave Tim Sheen's side their 10th championship.

It was a disappointing final for the Kiwis, who burst into the final thanks to an incredible last-minute try from Shaun Johnson in their semi-final against England last weekend.

Perhaps fatigue and nerves ruined the Kiwi's chances, but Australia's performance wouldn't have even given a full speed New Zealand side a chance.

From the start, Stephen Kearney's side where never at the races; with the Aussies taking the lead less than three minutes into the game, thanks to one of seven successful kicks from man of the match Jonathan Thurston.

Thurston was at the heart of all Australian sets; orchestrating plays through his special passing and largely thanks to the precision of his boot.

Australia were operating at full capacity across all aspects of their game, but when you can rely on Thurston to give you another edge on your final attacking phase, it makes the game much easier.

New Zealand couldn't cope with Thurston's kicking game and it was no surprise that Australia's first try came courtesy of the North Queensland Cowboy's boot.

The Kiwis found themselves level only briefly, before Thurston weighted a beautifully precise kick for for Slater to leap highest amongst several Kiwi defenders, giving the 2013 World Cup final its first try of the afternoon.

Slater was a huge doubt for Saturday's final, having been ruled out of their semi-final clash against Fiji due to a reoccurring knee injury suffered against the USA.

However the Melbourne Storm full-back managed to come through intense training midweek to make it into Sheen's starting line-up.

On a personal level the try would have meant so much to the 30-year old, who was slammed in his native country, after literally throwing the World Cup to New Zealand in the 2008 final.

After Thurston converted the Slater effort, New Zealand were almost undone by another kick, this time from Jarryd Hayne.

With the loose ball looking destined to find touch, Hayne managed to retrieve and kick it back towards the Kiwi try line, fortunately straight into the path of teammate Cronk.

The Queenslander looked certain to follow in the footsteps of Slater's try, but was denied by Isaac Luke who managed to superbly hold the ball up, an effort backed up by the video referee, who then handed New Zealand a penalty for illegal driving from another Australian forward.

It took the Kiwis just under 30 minutes to create their first try-scoring opportunity but typically it was shut down by the Australian defence, who now haven't conceded a try in over six hours of rugby after Saturday's final.

In a game largely separated by differing kicking abilities between the two sides, Shaun Johnson, the New Zealand hero from their last-gasp semi-final victory against England, managed a rare moment of brilliance against Australia, placing a Thurston-esque high ball onto the Australian try line.

This time Manu Vatuvei won the aerial battle, but it was no worry for the Australian defence who killed the chance easily pushing the big Kiwi number five clear of the try line.

That's as close as it came for the Kiwis, who were then pinned back in their own half for the remainder of the game.

Having been denied previously, Cronk didn't have to wait long to finally crossover for the champions, concluding a super move from his Queensland teammates.

It was the usual combination of Australia captain Cameron Smith, Thurston and Cronk who worked their magic once more, this time surprising the Kiwi defence by reversing the play onto the short-side.

Quick hands from Smith and Thurston, assisted by a missed Sonny Bill Williams tackle, gave the Australians an abundance of numbers on the left wing, before Boyd's kick was gathered by a fortunate Cronk.

The chance looked lost after Boyd's kick took a deflection further infield, but the sudden change of direction came as a surprise to New Zealand's hooker, who could only slip other when trying to gather the ball. That was enough for Cronk, who crossed over to give Australia a three-score lead, once Thurston kicked his fourth.

The Cowboy's fourth conversion of the match was also of personal significance, making Thurston the most prolific international point scorer in world rugby.

Australia went down the Old Trafford tunnel carrying a 16-2 lead into half time, having executed one of the finest first half displays in final history. Like a well-oiled machine, they were as efficient as Sheen would have imagined.

The half-time break proved no saving grace for the 2008 victors, with Australia somehow restarting in finer form than the first.

Heartbreak from the final five-years ago was finally put to bed for Slater, who finished another fine Aussie set, just 60 seconds into the second half.

Again it was the partnership between Smith and Thurston causing all sorts of problems for the Kiwi defence, who once more targeted the short side, using extra numbers to slot Slater through with complete ease.

Coming as no surprise, Thurston converted once more, killing any hopes of a New Zealand comeback, even with most of the half remaining.

Leading 22-2, Australia weren't finished there, and went on to score a further two more tries thanks to a second half brace from Morris.

The latter was of more significant watching, Williams, named as the International Player of the Year award earlier this week, gifted Australia with a final swansong, trying an ambitious player beating pass.

His attempt in breaking Australia's rock solid defence was in vain, with Hayne reading the Sydney Roosters players ambition and intercepted the pass on his own try line before charging up the field for the second time in as many minutes.

This time Hayne's break was converted by the supporting Morris, who gathered the pass to cross in the corner for his second.

Australia's scrum capped half-back was to convert the final points of the game, making it seven-from-seven and 34-2.

Despite a series of late half chances for New Zealand, it was a final they were never destined to win from the first score.

The full-time hooter finally sounded compiling a dominant display, if you will ever see one in rugby league, and one reminding the rugby world, Australia are the best team.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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