IT HAD been said that England needed to put on a competitive performance against Australia in its World Cup clash at Telstra Dome last night to give the series a shot in the arm and convince everybody that any team other than the Kangaroos could win the trophy.
For 10 minutes midway through the first half â€” and an occasional play here and there â€” England did just that, but in the end the natural order of things returned, with Australia running away in the second half to win 52-4.
And it was Melbourne Storm pair Billy Slater and Greg Inglis who led the way.
The pair turned in brilliant performances, scoring three tries each and repeatedly confounding the defence, as Australia scored nine tries to one.
It did not take long for the Kangaroos to open the scoring when the Melbourne connection of Cameron Smith and Slater linked up for the first try after four minutes. Smith then put a grubber through and, in a sight familiar in the National Rugby League, Slater chased through, grounding for the try. Prince made the conversion, making it 6-0.
Six minutes later and Australia â€” and another Storm player â€” was in again. This time it was Inglis, although it was aided by referee Tony Archer missing Australian forward Petero Civoniceva knocking on while playing the ball.
Inglis then sliced through the defence to score. Prince made the conversion, taking it to 12-0 after 11 minutes.
England, however, stayed in the contest and controversially cut the deficit when hooker James Roby burrowed through a forest of Australian defenders on the tryline. The English claimed the try although it looked as though Roby may have lost the ball.
Video referee Ashley Klein gave Roby the benefit of the doubt in awarding the try. Kevin Sinfield missed the conversion and it was 12-4.
England then lifted, putting the cup favourite under immense pressure for the next 10 minutes, but the Kangaroos defence stood firm.
Substitute forward Maurie Fa’asavalu then twice gave position to Australia through a penalty, then a dropped ball.
The Kangaroos took advantage of the latter mistake, spreading the ball on the last tackle to the left, finding Inglis who sliced through the defence for his third try of the tournament. Prince missed his first conversion to leave the score at 16-4.
An Australian kick downfield was then touched by an English defender, which was immediately called by Archer. However, England’s Paul Wellens, who was half the length of the field away, didn’t hear the call and let the ball go dead, giving possession back to Australia.
The Kangaroos did not miss their chance when second-rower Anthony Lafranchi caught the defence off guard with a clever run, then barged his way in to score. Prince nailed the easy conversion to give Australia a 22-4 lead at half-time.
After the break, it was all Australia, with five second-half tries to Joel Monaghan, Slater (twice), Inglis and Lafranchi.