OUR WILL A WORLD CUP WINNER
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