England fall agonisingly short as Australia retain World Cup

Australia claimed their 11th World Cup triumph in a bruising, intense encounter at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, but they were pushed almost to breaking point by a proud English side.

A first half try by Boyd Cordner, converted by Golden Boot winner Cameron Smith, was the only difference between the two teams as the Kangaroos prevailed 6-0.

In a tournament when Australia have pretty much scored tries for fun, it was their defence that ultimately kept England pointless, and broke English hearts.

Wayne Bennett moved Sam Burgess to loose forward to take over from the unfortunate Sean O’Loughlin, the big brother also took the armband for the World Cup final.

With Josh Hodgson out injured, James Roby moved up from the bench to take the hooking role, while Ben Currie also moved from the bench to start in the back-row.

Mal Meninga had the luxury of naming an unchanged line-up, including winger Valentine Holmes who had scored an amazing 11 tries in his previous two games.

Player of the Tournament, and Golden Boot winner this week Cameron Smith once again led the Australians, as the Green and Golds attempted to retain their trophy, and avoid the Wayne Bennett inspired shock of 2008 for New Zealand.

England received the ball first, and James Graham took a bang in the first tackle, which drew blood from beside his eye.

Another worry developed for England when Graham took a bang to the head, causing the prop more discomfort in the first five minutes.

The first mistake of the game arrived when Luke Gale knocked on as England attacked the Australian line on the last tackle.

Gale was also responsible for the first penalty of the game, as he took Billy Slater down with a high shot, also leading to the first bit of fisticuffs in an intense opening ten minutes.

From the resulting penalty Australia took the first chance to apply some pressure on the England line, and then forced a goal line drop out, after Kallum Watkins dropped a kick by Cooper Cronk.

A ball steal then gave Australia another penalty, but spirited defending saw England hold them out, although Ryan Hall unfortunately conceded another goal line drop out.

In the resulting attack from that intense pressure, a move from right to left saw Boyd Cordner crash his way over to give the holders the lead, Smith added the extras with the boot.

A third penalty on the trot from the restart gave Australia another chance to attack, however this time the England defence was equal to the job as Ryan Hall snapped up a Billy Slater grubber.

The first mistake from Australia, a Dane Gagai knock-on, presented England with their first real opportunity to apply some concerted pressure, but a desperate attempt by Hall ended with the ball in touch on the 2nd tackle.

England’s no-nonsense approach was clearly frustrating Australia, as the game swung from one end to the other, and tempers became more frayed on both sides leading to some very big hits particularly in the middle.

Alex Walmsley leads the England charge through the middle. CREDIT: SWpix/PhotosportNZ

For all their know-how, and their territory and possession, Australia were finding a very determined England defence extremely hard to breakdown, with Gale and Widdop prompting and probing in attack and defence.

What was hurting England most was the errors they consistently made, particularly near the Australian line as chances went begging, in a nip and tuck game.

A very dubious scrum awarded by Australian referee Gerard Sutton, in the England danger zone presented Australia with another chance, but again committed English defending held them out yet again going into the break.

England were put under early pressure in the second half as Widdop made an uncharacteristic mistake to drop a kick in front of his own line.

However the fullback soon redeemed himself as he took a high kick under extreme pressure in front of his own posts to clear the England lines.

Another dubious call from referee Sutton gave Australia another break after a clear charge down was ruled as not playing at the ball, denying England a repeat set in their own half.

However some frantic play by the Kangaroos, an interception by Golden Boot nominee Jermaine McGillvary saw England sweep forward, but an ultimately poor kick from Gale gave Australia a seven tackle set.

Eventually after a Gillett break, Michael Morgan danced his way over, but the try was denied by video referee Ben Thaler after a clear obstruction by Smith on Whitehead.

The bruising hits kept coming, and Elliott Whitehead was a victim of a particularly ugly one by the only try scorer, before Luke Gale scragged Billy Slater like a rag doll as the Australian fullback threatened to breakthrough.

Australia set-up position in the England half again following a penalty, and from that chance, Australia forced another goal line drop out as Hall was forced back behind his own line again.

Morgan then fumbled the ball which saw England hold firm again, and given a chance to force the issue in the Australian half early in the tackle count again.

A penalty close to the Australian line presented England with another chance, but organised Australian defending was just too good.

Cameron Smith then put in a rare errant kick that gave England another seven tackle set, but another attack was stifled by Australia.

A knock-on in his own half by Valentine Holmes gave England another chance to put more concerted pressure on a creaking Australian defence.

However Josh Dugan was able to rescue Australia again by grabbing a grubber kick behind his line, and forcing himself back into the field of play.

England were crying out for a player who could make something unexpected happen, but as time ticked on, that was looking increasingly unlikely, and mistakes were being hunted more than chances.

England forced a repeat set as an attack from a Watkins break saw Morgan tackled in-goal by McGillvary for a goal line drop out, from which Australia notably took a long time to take.

However another opportunity was wasted as a wild pass to the edge went behind McGillvary and into touch, much to the palpable relief of the holders.

Australia were sucking in the big deep breaths as the game wore on, while England seemed to have more spring in their step, threatening an absolute sensation.

An attempted intercept by Holmes, which the winger knocked to ground, presented England with a scrum in the Australian half, but Sam Burgess lost the ball on the first tackle with nine minutes left to play.

Australia gave England another sign of their desperation, as Thomas Burgess had the ball stolen, giving England a penalty, and territory and possession with it, but a knock-on by Thomas Burgess wasted the chance again.

Yet another chance came England’s way as Will Chambers knocked-on in his own half, but a kick early in the tackle count by Gale was gobbled up by the centre with 90 seconds left.

It was England who ended the game on attack, but Australia just held on for a victory that saw them pushed to their absolute limits and win their 11th World Title in absolutely desperate circumstances.

The emotion of the England players was clear for all to see, after such a huge effort, that truly did our country proud in every sense of the word.

Squads:

Australia: Billy Slater, Dane Gagai, Will Chambers, Josh Dugan, Valentine Holmes, Michael Morgan, Cooper Cronk, Aaron Woods, Cameron Smith, David Klemmer, Boyd Cordner, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire: Interchange: Wade Graham, Jordan McLean, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Tyson Frizell.

England: Gareth Widdop, Jermaine McGillvary, Kallum Watkins, John Bateman, Ryan Hall, Kevin Brown, Luke Gale, Chris Hill, James Roby, James Graham, Ben Currie, Elliott Whitehead, Sam Burgess: Interchange: Alex Walmsley, Thomas Burgess, Johnny Lomax, Chris Heighington.

Scorers:

Australia: Tries: Boyd Cordner (15) Goals: Cameron Smith 1/1

England: Tries:  Goals:

Penalties: Australia 6 England 7

Goal Line Drop Outs: Australia 1 England 3

Man of the Match: Boyd Cordner