BRISBANE, Australia, Dec 2, (Agencies): Australia has retained the Rugby League World Cup title with a 6-0 win over England in a brutal defense-oriented final. Boyd Cordner crashed over in the 15th minute after Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk worked across field and Michael Morgan popped a short ball onto the second-rower at close range.
Smith converted the try and, despite a string of opportunities for both teams, it was the only score in 80 minutes on Saturday night in humid sub-tropical conditions in Brisbane.
The English squad went into the final as underdogs after skipper Sean O’Loughlin and hooker Josh Hodgson were ruled out by injuries, but performed beyond expectations against a team that had beaten them 18-4 in the tournament opener.
It was the Kangaroos’ 11th World Cup title and first on home soil since 1977. Australia’s victory extended a drought for British teams that dates back to 1972.
“It’s amazing, mate,” said Smith, who this year has won the NRL premiership with the Melbourne Storm, the State Of Origin series with Queensland and the World Cup with Australia. “To finally get a World Cup victory on home soil. It’s been quite a long time.”
“It was one of the toughest football games I’ve played in my entire career. We’ve gone back-to-back World Cup victories now, and very glad to have the Kangaroos as the No. 1 team in the world.” The Australians conceded only 16 points in six games, and Smith said the focus on defense made the difference in the end.
Australian five-eighth Morgan crossed in the 46th minute after a strong run by Matt Gillett, but the TV official ruled no try and penalized the hosts for obstruction.
England had two strong chances to equalize, with winger Ryan Hall going close in the first half before he was bundled into touch in a covering tackle.
Josh Dugan’s ankle tap on England center Kallum Watkins saved an almost certain try late in the second half.
England prop James Graham said the one-try scoreline didn’t reflect the nature of the game.
“Tough one to take,” he said, “but what a spectacle.
“There were a couple of times where the half-break was on, but fair play to them for their scramble.”
In London, Nili Latu was Newcastle’s last-gasp hero as his try helped secure a dramatic 24-22 win against Northampton on Friday.
Latu crossed for the crucial score at Franklin’s Gardens before Sonatane Takulua’s ice-cool conversion for Newcastle left the Saints with only a losing bonus point.
It was a fifth successive Premiership defeat for Jim Mallinder’s men, who had looked set to win it after Dylan Hartley popped up with a second-half score.
Hartley’s effort, added to Harry Mallinder’s score, a penalty try and five points from the boot of Piers Francis, put Northampton 22-17 up with 10 minutes to go.
But Latu and Takulua combined to secure the win, adding to earlier tries from Sinoti Sinoti and Josh Matavesi and two conversions from Toby Flood, who was sin-binned during the first half.
Sale overcame Byron McGuigan’s sending-off to beat Worcester 18-14 and record their first Premiership away win since February.
The game was level when McGuigan went off in the second half, after his second yellow card, and despite the hosts taking the lead from the resulting penalty, Mark Jennings crossed for a game-winning try with 10 minutes left.
Rohan Janse van Rensburg scored the visitors’ other try of the contest, with AJ MacGinty adding two penalties and a conversion. Josh Adams crossed for Worcester’s sole try and Chris Pennell kicked nine points.