The eternal class of Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, Valentine Holmes' five-try stunner and another night of disappointment for Samoa among the key points to come from a 46-0 win for the Kangaroos in Darwin on Friday night.
Samoa’s disappointing tournament comes to an end
Many were expecting Samoa to dig in and have a real crack against Australia after a poor showing in the group stages but that did not happen. The Samoans looked underprepared on Friday night and that is the story of their tournament. By losing to Australia they have been rewarded with an unwanted first for the nation that will disappoint the players, coaching staff and supporters alike. For the first time in their history, Samoa failed to win a match during a World Cup campaign. The best Samoa could do during this year’s instalment was a 14-all draw with Scotland, and for that they will see this tournament as a failure.
Mark Geyer did not hold back when giving his summation of Samoa’s tournament and quarter-final performance on Channel 7's coverage, describing the Samoan side as "woeful".
The Roosters have picked up Cooper Cronk for 2018 and Australian Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga will be hoping his star halfback’s representative career continues with his new life in Sydney. Cronk is still undecided about his Queensland and Australian career past this World Cup, but judging by his performance against Samoa he could easily play at least another year if he wanted to.
Australia’s No.7 was simply everywhere on Friday night, showing his class to take Samoa out of the game before a half had even been played. Watching Cronk organise his side with authority is something that would make any nation jealous, and Samoa felt the effects of the 33-year-old’s efficiency early. Cronk had a hand in three tries in the first half - one with a perfect chip kick and two with his superb passing game – and if that was not enough his long-range kicking game continually found the grass and turned the big Samoan side around.
Slater simply the best
Is Billy Slater the best fullback to ever play rugby league? He must be close.
The Melbourne Storm star and future Immortal put together another outstanding 80-minute performance, running all over a tired Samoan side that had no answers for his speed and footwork. If he was not scoring tries he was setting them up, combining brilliantly with teammates Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith, as well as strengthening a relatively new partnership with five-eighth Michael Morgan. Morgan is a better player with Slater running off him and the two are sure to continue to cause problems for their opposition heading into the last two weeks of competition.
History created in Darwin
Friday’s match-up marked the first time an international rugby league match had been played in the Top End and the locals came out in droves to sell out Darwin Stadium. It certainly will not be the last time rugby league ventures up north, with the city producing a perfect night for football.
The players were greeted with a field that could be compared to a billiard table, with their only complaint the hot and humid conditions. Sitting at around 30 degrees at kick-off, the heat took its toll from the get-go, with playmakers from both sides looking to find touch at any chance to give their forwards a break. Australia were the quicker of the two sides to adjust and the final scoreboard showed that. Despite the lopsided result, both teams must be congratulated for battling on bravely and producing an exciting spectacle for the Darwin fans.
Five for Holmes
Australian winger Valentine Holmes had a Friday night to remember, becoming the first player in World Cup history to score five tries in a match. The performance cemented his status as one of the game's best finishers, scoring three tries in the first half and two in the second. His best four-pointer of the night came in the 17th minute when he started the play in his own corner of the field, broke the line to find Cronk, and then received the ball back off Cronk to run the remaining 70 metres and score. It was a full field effort that set the tone for the rest of the night. Holmes's confidence is sky high and the Kangaroos are a better team for it.