Billy Slater, a doubt through injury in the build-up to the game, banished memories of the 2008 final defeat to the Kiwis, scoring two tries, one in either half, as the Kangaroos proved too strong.
After they had built up a 16-2 half-time lead, Slater’s try, off the back of a break by the outstanding Jonathan Thurston and winger Darius Boyd, less than a minute in to the second half, effectively killed the game as a contest.
They ran in five tries in total, with Thurston flawless from seven with the boot, and they maintained their remarkable run of not conceding a try in the tournament, since the opening day victory over England.
The Kiwis, however, had suffered a blow when their top try scorer Roger Tuivasa-Sheck hobbled off with what looked like a recurrence of the injury that had threatened his participation in the match, and coach Stephen Kearney’s gamble hadn’t paid off.
There was no such worry for his opposite number Tim Sheens, who watched his own injury doubt, Slater, claim the game’s first try, climbing highest to take Thurston’s floating kick and touch down.
Cronk thought he had the game’s second try on 26 minutes. Brett Morris went up for a kick with Manu Vatuvei, and the loose ball fell to Jarryd Hayne, whose impromptu inside kick was claimed by Cronk. He was held up though, by Isaac Luke, and the try was ruled out by the video referee.
He wasn’t to be denied minutes later though, when Thurston wriggled out of a tackle and sent Greg Inglis away down the right, who passed outside to Darius Boyd, and Boyd’s scuffed grubber kick was collected by Cronk and he found his way to the line.
Any hopes of a Kiwis comeback in the second half were virtually extinguished in the first minute. Thurston scampered away down the left to find Boyd on his shoulder, who sent Slater in for his second.
The sheer quality of the Kangaroos performance was perhaps best summed up by their fourth try, a real improvised effort.
A little rushed on the last tackle, they shifted it right, where Josh Papalii‘s offload sent Morris flying down the right. His chip kick forward was gathered by Hayne, who couldn’t quite grasp it in his hands, and so kicked on for Morris to chase and touch down.
The newly-crowned International Player of the Year Sonny Bill Williams spent the rest of the match desperately trying to find a way through the Kangaroos defence, but the Kiwis’ woe was compounded when his pass was intercepted by Hayne, who raced away and put Morris in for his second try.
Photo courtesy of swpix.com
New Zealand: Locke, Tuivasa-Sheck, Whare, Goodwin, Vatuvei, Foran, Johnson, Waerea-Hargreaves, Luke, Bromwich, Mannering, Williams, Taylor. Interchanges: Nu’uausala, Kasiano, Matulino, Glenn.
Scorers: Goals – Johnson 1/1
Australia: Slater, B Morris, Inglis, Hayne, Boyd, Thurston, Cronk, Scott, Smith, Tamou, Bird, Thaiday, Gallen. Interchanges: Cherry-Evans, Papalii, Fifita, Parker.
Scorers: Tries – Slater (19, 41), Cronk (31), Morris (53, 73) Goals – Thurston 7/7
Referee: Richard Silverwood
Half time: 2-16
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester