Australia v England: Five key points

Australia outlasted England in an absorbing Rugby League World Cup final in Brisbane. Here are five key points from the Kangaroos' tense win.

Meninga’s triumph

The Kangaroos reaffirmed their status as rugby league world champions.

It's also a personal triumph for coach Mal Meninga, becoming the first man to captain and coach Australia to World Cup victories.

The Kangaroos have now won 17 games straight and 13 consecutively under Meninga, who took over the role with Australia ranked number two in the world. 

His mantra of 'RISE', expectation of excellence and an understanding of how to get the best out of elite teams has ensured his legacy is now not just one of Australia's best players, but best coaches too.

The last of Australia's 'Big Three'?

Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith have probably played their last games together in the Australian jersey, finishing as World Cup winners.

The long-time team mates have enjoyed wonderful success at national level and Slater admitted after the match it's probably his final game in Australian colours.

"This will probably be my last game in the green and gold jersey," he said after the win over England.

Smith was elated after the final whistle.

"It's amazing, to finally get a World Cup victory at home," he said.

"It was one of the toughest games I've played in my entire career. We've got ourselves back to number one."

Desperate defence for both teams

In a game as close as this, both sides refused to concede in one of the most absorbing, tense Tests of all time.

England and Australia came up with try-saving plays in crucial moments. England centre Kallum Watkins had a clear run to the line but Josh Dugan had the faintest of ankle taps. The Kangaroos swarmed to chase down England winger Jermaine McGillvary after an interception. England managed to stop consecutive sets on their own try-line. 

It was a throwback to some of the World Cup finals of the 1970s, with the Australians and the English defending ferociously for 80 minutes. 

There was a sight you'll rarely see. Cameron Smith on his haunches. The Kangaroos skipper's fatigue was evident when deep in the second half, he couldn't get back to dummy-half for most of a set of six.

Kangaroos win the kicking duel

Australia scored an average of 40 points per game coming into the final, but England found a way to nullify their gamebreakers. England halfback Luke Gale had his best kicking game of the tournament, using a mixture of deep bombs, barrelling kicks and aerial efforts, frequently finding space between Kangaroos' back three Dane Gagai, Billy Slater and Valentine Holmes.

Cooper Cronk was slightly more effective though, forcing consecutive repeat sets through his pin-point kicking. One of those led to Boyd Cordner's try in the 15 minute - and who could have imagined it was enough to win the game.

Execution the difference

England had opportunities on Australia's line but paid the price for panicking. Whereas Cronk and Michael Morgan were happy to enforce repeat sets and build pressure on the back of direct kicking, the English shuffled it wide on three occasions early in their plays.

They needed one play to stick. Australia managed theirs, but England will rue their decisions and the need for some cooler heads in one of the closest contests in history. 

Wayne Bennett will be happy his team gave Australia such a good game - but the question remains, will he stay on?