A first half master class from the Australian Kangaroos has delivered them the 2016 Four Nations champions title after five years without the trophy, defeating the New Zealand Kiwis 34 points to eight at Anfield in Liverpool in front of 40,042 fans.
The Aussies led 24-0 at the break, completing at 95%, and teaching the Kiwis what international Rugby League is all about.
The Kangaroos opened the scoring in just the third minute of play when Cooper Cronk took the play to the blind side of a scrum, spreading the ball to the fringe for Blake Ferguson to score in the right hand corner. Johnathan Thurston had his kicking boots on when he piloted the ball between the posts from the touch line to establish an early six-point lead for the Australians.
The Kiwis would then heap a mountain of pressure on the Australians for a good ten minute period. Following a long break from Jordan Rapana, a loose pass from Shaun Johnson was scooped up by Valentine Holmes who turned the momentum with his own long break. The ball made its way back to the right with Josh Dugan finding space to score.
Thurston extended that lead to 12 in the 18th minute when he kicked a penalty goal from in front.
The Kiwis’ heads were dropping and their attitude led to more points for the Kangaroos with Trent Merrin charging over from short range to extend the Australian lead to 16-0 after 21 minutes. Thurston converted to take the lead out to 18-0.
The Kiwi centres were having a horrible day with their hands, with Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Solomone Kata keeping the Kiwis under plenty of pressure deep in their own territory.
It would not take long for the pressure to turn into points, with a Martin Taupau high shot costing the Kiwis two points when Thurston kicked his second penalty goal for the match.
The Australians’ right side attack would do damage again in the 32nd minute when Matt Gillett and Josh Dugan tore holes in the Kiwis’ defence. Dugan would end up scoring his second try giving the Aussies a 24-0 lead.
The Australians were attacking the left side of the Kiwis defence all half, but the first time they came to their left towards Greg Inglis, he charged at the line from 15 metres out and it took four defenders to hold him up over the line, denying the big Rabbitohs fullback a try with his first attacking opportunity.
In what is becoming a habit for first halves in Australian Test matches, Australia was completely dominating New Zealand after the first 40 minutes, and it was hard to see where the Kiwis were going to find holes in the rock solid Kangaroos’ defence.
It would only take the Aussies five minutes to post more points with the video referee awarding a four pointer to Darius Boyd, giving the Australians a 28-0 lead.
The Kiwis posted their first points when Jordan Kahu found space out wide to score in the 56th minute after mounting some pressure on the Kangaroos, reducing the Australians’ lead to 28-4.
13 minutes later Kahu would score his second try, bouncing out of three Australian tackles to score, reducing the Kangaroos’ lead to 20.
The Australians responded with Boyd Cordner crashing over in the 73rd minute to the left hand side of the posts. Thurston converted to give the Kangaroos a 34-8 lead.
The Kiwis threw the ball around in the final minutes but the Australian defence was up to the task, finalising the score line at 34-8, which would see the Australians crowned Four Nations Champions for the first time since 2011.
Despite getting limited opportunities throughout the Four Nations Final, the aura of Greg Inglis was felt by the Kiwis. He ran for 121 metres from his 11 runs and made ten tackles, but the number of times the Kiwis, and his opposite number Shaun Kenny-Dowall, went the opposite way to where Inglis was defending was unfathomable.
Every time Inglis got the ball he looked dangerous, and took the opportunities to put his support players like Valentine Holmes and Darius Boyd in space.
Inglis had a fantastic Four Nations tournament and he did his nation, and all Rabbitohs Members and supporters, proud.
To watch the highlights from the match, click here.
Australian Kangaroos 34 (Josh Dugan 2, Blake Ferguson, Trent Merrin, Darius Boyd, Boyd Cordner tries; Johnathan Thurston 5 goals)
New Zealand Kiwis 8 (Jordan Kahu 2 tries)