Jil­la­roos block out emo­tions, grab ti­tle

Sunday Tasmanian - - Sport - PETER BADEL LAINE CLARK

MAL Meninga has be­come the first man to cap­tain and coach Aus­tralia to World Cup glory as the Kan­ga­roos 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 the scores when Kal­lum Watkins surged clear in the 66th minute, only to be sen­sa­tion­ally an­kle­tapped 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 beat Eng­land ri­val Wayne Ben­nett to the Kan­ga­roos post two years ago and on his watch, Aus­tralia has 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.

Eng­land was re­peat­edly trou­bled by Aus­tralia’s left­edge of­fence. The Kan­ga­roos looked most dan­ger­ous when five-eighth Michael Mor­gan and his out­side man, back­rower 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 dif­fer­ence be­tween the sides is this: Eng­land has gutsy grafters. The Kan­ga­roos have mar­quee match­win­ners. TEARS of joy have flowed as the Jil­la­roos de­fended their Rugby League World Cup ti­tle with a 23-16 win over the Kiwi Ferns and farewelled co-cap­tains Steph Han­cock and Re­nae Kunst in style. Or so they thought. Han­cock toyed with the idea of a come­back after Aus­tralia claimed back-to-back Cups and fin­ished 2017 un­de­feated in Bris­bane last night, say­ing it would be hard to say good­bye to her “best mates”.

“I had a lit­tle cry out there but now I am as happy as bug­gery,” the for­ward said.

“I think I will have to come up with a new dream now — this one is done and dusted. But we will see ... we will talk about it later.”

But Kunst slammed the door shut on her in­ter­na­tional ca­reer.

“I’m done. You can’t top that,” she said.

Half­back Caitlin Moran sealed the re­sult with a field goal 13 sec­onds from time after cen­tre Is­abelle Kelly bagged a dou­ble in the four tries to three win.

Be­fore the match the Jil­la­roos tried to keep their emo­tions in check over their de­part­ing lead­ers, but they didn’t hold back at full­time as they cel­e­brated the glit­ter­ing careers of Han­cock and Kunst.

The pair held the Jil­la­roos reins with fel­low co-cap­tain Ruan Sims.

The Jil­la­roos were sur­prise 2013 Cup win­ners when they beat the three-time cham­pion Ki­wis for the first time in the fi­nal, end­ing a 13-year win­less drought.

But there was no doubt­ing the Jil­la­roos were wor­thy cham­pi­ons last night after hold­ing out the visi­tors, en­dur­ing some anx­ious mo­ments when the Ferns scored in the 69th minute through fiveeighth Raecene Mc­Gre­gor to make it 22-16.

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