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FAVOURITES Australia came out on top in the Rugby League World Cup final, but it was a game their opponents England could easily have won had they been more clinical in attacking situations.
The game was more notable for its physicality rather than the scoring of points. It was one of the toughest matches in the World Cup so far, with England’s James Graham and Australia’s Aaron Woods heavily involved in the centre of the park.
The simmering tempers boiled over when Luke Gale was penalised for a high tackle on Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith, and from there the hosts built a platform on the England line from which they eventually scored the only try of the game.
A number of repeat sets had Wayne Bennett’s side backtracking, and the pressure told when Michael Morgan sent Boyd Cordner crashing over from close range, with Smith’s conversion making it 6-0.
England’s forays into the opposition half were thwarted by their own lack of composure and the seemingly impenetrable Australian defence. They needed something special in opposition territory, but when they tried to force the issue errors came.
Australia crossed the line again in the second half but — despite being deemed a try by the referee on the pitch, Australian Gerard Sutton — it was disallowed by English video referee Ben Thaler for an obstruction in the build-up.
England were buoyed by the decision, and created chances of their own, but when Kallum Watkins found himself beyond the Kangaroos’ defensive line, a last-gasp ankle tap from opposing centre Josh Dugan was enough to see him eventually stumble to the ground.
England more than matched their opponents when it came to skill and physicality, but didn’t quite have the cutting edge when it mattered, despite attacking until the final seconds of the game.
“It’s amazing to finally get a World Cup victory on home soil,” said Aussie captain Smith. “A lot of hard work has gone into it. It’s one of the toughest football games I’ve played in my entire career.”
England prop Graham, who somehow remained in the action to the end despite being battered and bruised, was disappointed but praised his side’s display in the final.
“It’s a tough one to take but I think both teams played really well,” said the Maghull-born forward. “6-0 probably doesn’t advertise a great game, but what a spectacle.
“There were a couple of times where we thought the half break was on, but fair play to them for their scrambling defence. We wanted to be here but we wanted to go one step further.”
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