OUR WILL A WORLD CUP WIN­NER

WORLD CUP

Sunday Territorian - - FRONT PAGE - PETER BADEL

MAL Meninga has be­come the first man to cap­tain and coach Aus­tralia to World Cup glory as the Kan­ga­roos last night sum­moned ev­ery ounce of courage to break Eng­land’s hearts in a pul­sat­ing de­cider.

Be­fore 40,033 at Sun­corp Sta­dium, the World Cup de­cider mor­phed into an Ashes clas­sic as the old en­e­mies traded vi­cious blows be­fore Aus­tralia landed the killer punch to pre­vail 6-0.

It was fran­tic and fu­ri­ous to the fi­nal sec­onds, with the Kan­ga­roos hav­ing to with­stand a sec­ond-half English on­slaught that breathed life into the cred­i­bil­ity of in­ter­na­tional rugby league.

Ul­ti­mately, the first World Cup de­cider in 22 years be­tween the Ashes ri­vals was de­cided by a soli­tary try – Kan­ga­roos back-rower Boyd Cord­ner’s line-bust­ing bril­liance in the 15th minute.

The English had a glo­ri­ous chance to level scores when Kallum Watkins surged clear in the 66th minute, only to be sen­sa­tion­ally an­kle-tapped by Aus­tralian cen­tre Josh Du­gan.

Some­how the Kan­ga­roos hung on, their courage un­der­scored by the des­per­a­tion of a de­fen­sive line that shut out the Poms and con­ceded just 16 points in six tour­na­ment games.

When the full-time siren sounded, shat­tered Eng­land play­ers dropped to the turf.

Aus­tralian skip­per Cameron Smith was mobbed by Kan­ga­roos team­mates on a night that could rep­re­sent Billy Slater’s fi­nal game in green and gold.

For Meninga, it was sweet vin­di­ca­tion. He con­tro­ver­sially beat Eng­land ri­val Wayne Ben­nett to the Kan­ga­roos post two years ago and on his watch, Aus­tralia have gone 575 days and 13 matches with­out a loss.

In the process, the 46-Test leg­end be­came the first man to skip­per and master­mind Aus­tralian World Cup tri­umphs af­ter he cap­tained the Kan­ga­roos to vic­tory in the 1992 fi­nal.

The open­ing 30 min­utes had the fire-and-brim­stone feel of Kan­ga­roo tour clashes from the 1980s. If Aus­tralia’s of­fen­sive struc­tures were slick, Eng­land’s de­fen­sive ri­poste was stoic.

For all their de­fen­sive des­per­a­tion, Eng­land were re­peat­edly trou­bled by Aus­tralia’s left-edge of­fence.

The Kan­ga­roos looked most dan­ger­ous when fiveeighth Michael Mor­gan and his out­side man, back-rower Boyd Cord­ner, played di­rect.

Amid the grit and grind, it was Mor­gan who de­liv­ered the class, pro­vid­ing the crisp short ball for Cord­ner, the best straight-line run­ner in the code, to crash over for a 6-0 lead af­ter 15 min­utes.

The es­sen­tial dif­fer­ence be­tween the sides is this – Eng­land have gutsy grafters but the Kan­ga­roos have mar­quee match­win­ners.

Aus­tralia have a slew of stars – Slater, Smith, Cooper Cronk and Michael Mor­gan – who can bust a game open.

Eng­land are brave and Gareth Widdop is saga­cious at the back but they sim­ply don’t have a blue-chip cham­pion to tor­ment the Kan­ga­roos.

With Aus­tralia cling­ing to a 6-0 half­time lead, the sec­ond half be­came a bat­tle of wills.

Eng­land pep­pered Aus­tralia’s try­line mid­way through the sec­ond stanza but the Kan­ga­roos de­fended like the ruth­less side that con­ceded just 16 points in their first five games.

It was tes­ta­ment to Eng­land’s heart that the world cham­pi­ons were un­der the pump for the fi­nal 20 min­utes.

Boyd Cord­ner gets out of a tackle to score dur­ing last night’s World Cup Fi­nal be­tween Aus­tralia and

Aus­tralian cap­tain Cameron Smith and coach Mal Meninga hold aloft the Rugby League World Cup at Sun­corp Sta­dium last night

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