Australia have turned on a rugby league masterclass to dispatch the NZ Kiwis in the Four Nations final and grab the world #1 ranking from their rivals.
The Kangaroos stamped their authority with an impeccable first-half performance and held on for a 34-8 victory at Anfield, the famous home of Liverpool FC.
Winger Josh Dugan scored twice, as the Kangaroos bullied the Kiwis’ inexperienced left-edge defence, while his team ran in a total of six tries through a combination of power, skill and speed.
Australia wasted no time establishing their dominance, taking advantage of Jordan Kahu’s handling error to put centre Blake Ferguson across untouched in the corner.
Jordan Rapana split the Aussie defence with a long run, but when it broke down, the Kangaroos counterattacked, with fullback Darius Boyd providing the last pass for Dugan’s first try.
A botched play-the-ball between Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Issac Luke provided Australia with the opportunity for Trent Merrin to bullock his way over near the posts, while Dugan outpaced the defence to gather a kick-through from Johnathan Thurston for his second try.
Ahead 24-0 at half-time, Australia enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory, racking up nine repeat sets and completing 90% of their sets. New Zealand had just three repeat sets and finished 67%.
If the Kiwis hoped to mount a comeback, they were rocked soon after the restart, when Boyd barely reached the try-line to extend the Australian lead.
There were more hopeful signs for the black-and-white jersey through the second half though. In the 56th minute, Jordan Kahu capitalised on some extended pressure with a try and then secured a double, when he spun and lunged across the line.
But there was no denying Australia their triumph, with second row Boyd Cordner providing the icing on the cake in the final moments. Boyd was named Man of the Match.
“It was one of those nights,” conceded Kiwis veteran Adam Blair, “We worked really hard this whole tour and this week, but we were very disappointed with our effort in the first half.
“Collectively, as a group, we let ourselves down and our ball-handling was terrible.
“Then we came out in the second half and tried to play some footy in what we believe is the Kiwis style, but they were a class outfit tonight and cleaned us up.”
New Zealand must now regroup under coach David Kidwell and prepare for their next challenge, the trans-Tasman test early next year and Rugby League World Cup 2017 on home soil.
Australia 34 (Josh Dugan 2, Blake Ferguson, Trent Merrin, Darius Boyd & Boyd Cordner tries; Johnathan Thurston 5 goals) NZ Kiwis 8 (Jordan Kahu 2 tries)