Kangaroos save the best for last
For six weeks it was perceived that the Kangaroos were prolonging the inevitable. And on Saturday night in Brisbane, the Kangaroos did what was always expected of them, but not in the fashion that was predicted.
Australia, unconvincing at times throughout the tournament, left their best for last to give Mal Meninga furthermore bragging rights over Wayne Bennett and lift the World Cup once again.
It was only until the quarter final Australia began to hit their straps, but they came into the final having not been tested since the opening weekend of the tournament against England in Melbourne.
And tested they were again.
If England were going to pull off an upset of gigantic proportions, Sam Burgess needed to have an equally mammoth contribution – but he was generally well contained by an Australian defensive line hellbent on denting their opponents.
With two of England’s best players in Sean O’Loughlin and Josh Hodgson missing through injury, near perfection was required from the visitors.
So when their first attacking opportunity presented itself mid-way through the second half, Wayne Bennett would have been pulling his hair out watching his side get taken into touch on just the second tackle.
The fact they coughed over possession on the second tackle while attacking the line a few moments later would only compound their woes.
England prop Tom Burgess won’t want to watch replays of this game. He dropped the ball two times in as many minutes with his side trailing by a converted try in the dying stages of the game.
His ball control has dogged him for his entire career and it once again let him down on the night he could least afford it.
But like all Bennett-coached sides, they kept themselves in the contest through some gritty defence.
The problem for England, they rarely looked like finding a way through the Australian defence. But what they lacked with the ball in hand they made up for with scramble in defence to thwart the attacking prowess of the Kangaroos for large chunks of the contest.
Keeping a team to six points leads to victory on almost every occasion. But not against a team that has prided itself on defence since coming together almost two months ago.
Australian vice captain Boyd Cordner was devastating down the left edge, matched equally by his backrow partner Matt Gillett on the opposite side of the field.
If there was any doubt before, Meninga laid claim to the tag as the game’s greatest representative coach, continuing his unbeaten record with Australia to guide the Kangaroos to a World Cup triumph on home soil.
The coach of the Kangaroos is a job that comes with very few accolades. Winning is only achieving the expected. Losing is unforgiveable.
It’s a tough gig, but Meninga has made the seamless transition from State of Origin, where he helped Queensland to a record eight straight series wins, to the international arena.
This one would have been that extra bit sweeter knowing Bennett was on the end of it. Tension between the pair has only intensified over the past few years and given the barbs thrown at each other in the build up, you can be guaranteed Meninga would have gained extra satisfaction in Bennett’s misery.
Even his most avid supporters in his home town took pleasure in his pain, booing the largely idolised Queenslander when he appeared on the big screen. His reign with England appeared to have ended on Saturday night, but by no means was his time all for nothing. England have shortened the gap between them and Australia, learning some lessons that will ensure they will be as competitive in the future long after Bennett’s departure.