New Zealand 2 v 34 Australia (Rugby League World Cup Final)
Russell Watson started the day by singing both national anthems before Australia won the Rugby League World Cup with a resounding victory over defending champions New Zealand in front of a record crowd of 74,468 at Old Trafford.
Australia started the better Johnathan Thurston giving them an early two-point lead with a penalty, before having it cancelled out by Shaun Johnson. However the Kangaroos raced to a 16-2 half-time lead with tries from Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk with Thurston converting both and landing another penalty.
Australia’s defence, which had not conceded a try since the opening day of the tournament, proved as sturdy as ever, and New Zealand had no response to second-half tries from Slater and Brett Morris.
A knock-on by Jesse Bromwich on his 20-metre line gave Australia the first chance of the game which they looked to have taken advantage of but Jarryd Hayne failed to bring the ball down over the line.
Kieran Foran was then ruled to have taken out Slater off the ball, conceding a penalty. Thurston opted to kick to goal, and made no mistake to get Australia off the mark.
New Zealand’s chances of retaining the trophy were dealt a blow when Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was taken off injured, but a high tackle from Cameron Smith on Elijah Taylor presented the Kiwis with a chance to level the scores, and Johnson, New Zealand’s hero from their semi-final win over England, did just that.
Australia regained the lead when Slater collected Thurston’s kick before diving over the line to score the opening try of the game; the stand-off was left with a straightforward conversion.
After lengthy deliberation by the video referee, Australia were denied their second try of the game, after Hayne’s kick was taken down by Cronk.
New Zealand came close to their opening try when Johnson’s cross-field kick was expertly taken down by Manu Vatuvei, but the Kiwi winger was held just short of the line.
After defending strongly, Australia went up the other end to score. Boyd darted down the left wing before finding Cronk who crossed, with Thurston adding the extras.
Australia were awarded another penalty five minutes before the break, with Thurston again opting to take the two points, further extending the lead.
Just 60 seconds into the second half Slater scored his second try, as Thurston and Boyd combined to give the full-back a free run to the line.
Australia threatened to run away with the game shortly after when Brett Morris pounced onto Hayne’s kick following a move started by an inspirational offload from Josh Papalii.
The winger seemed to have injured himself in scoring as his momentum carried him down the slope at the end of the pitch and into the advertising boards, but after receiving treatment was able to continue
New Zealand’s misery was compounded when Sonny Bill Williams’s pass was picked out of the air by Hayne, who found Brett Morris to score his second of the game and seal the win for the Kangaroos.
New Zealand – Locke, Tuivasa-Sheck, Whare, Goodwin, Vatuvei, Johnson, Waerea-Hargreaves, Luke, Bromwich, Mannering, Williams, Taylor (Subs) Nu’uausala, Kasiano, Matulino, Glenn
Australia – Slater, Morris, Inglis, Hayne, Boyd, Thurston, Cronk, Scott, Smith, Tamou, Bird, Thaiday, Gallen (Subs) Cherry-Evans, Papalii, Fifita, Parker
Trys – (Australia) – B Slater (24,40), C Cronk (33), B Morris (52,72)
Conversions – (New Zealand) Johnson (10) (Australia) Thurston (4,16,33,40,52,65,72)
Attendance – 74,468