Slater bagged 3 tries in the 46-16 win over the English, helping erase his bad memories from his last major outing in a finals scenario for the Kangaroos.
A respectable crowd of just over 30,000 at Elland Road turned out, with Billy Slater’s ability proving the difference only 12 months after he was hammered for potentially costing Australia the World Cup win over the Kiwis.
It was a close affair in the first half, but Slaters 3 tries in the second stanza really help the Australian side run away with the match.
The score didn’t reflect the game, with the Kangaroos only really able to step on the gas in the final 15 minutes.
The opening minutes saw some physical clashes, with Englishman Adrian Morely sending a clear message after smashing Hennant in the early confrontations.
England probably had the better of the early clashes and minutes, but despite this – the Australian side was the more likely to touchdown for a try. Despite switching Eels Jarryd Hayne to the opposite flank to get more ball, it was the opposite side of Justin Hodges and Brett Morris which saw much more ball early on.
Cameron Smith showed good fleet of foot in the opening stanza, running down a narrow blind side, the raid ended with Morris, who crunched by Pommie Ryan Hall, with the Australian winger not able to touchdown in the far corner. From the possession changeover, England powered down into the Aussie redzone, and Sam Burgess did very well to angle around Petero Civoniceva and then dummy around Billy Slater to get the first try of the match.
The Kangaroos were a little stunned after this, and Cam Smith sent the restart out on the full. The Poms nearly making the tourists pay – and should have touched down immediately after, with Burgess trying the dummy again and choosing not to link with an open Sam Tomkins who would have surely scored.
The failure by Burgess crucial, as Hodges setup Morris soon after to get the Kangaroos in the frame.
Hayne again struggled to get involved, the Dally M player of the year unable to spark things away from his natural position of fullback. He was caught out on the flank when Peter Fox out-jumped him off a Kyle Eastmond’s high kick – to give the English yet another try.
The try coming after an unusual call from Kiwi whistle blower Leon Williamson, who somehow called ‘held’ on Civoniceva when he was still making progress. Civoniceva continued to surge forward and it costs the Australians a penalty. The Kangaroos blew up, but it didn’t matter – the points chalked up for the English.
Not long before half time Hayne got his chance as JT set him into open spaces off an inside ball. However, the Parramatta fullback had an unmarked Billy Slater off his hip – but instead chose to chip ahead. Fortunately for Hayne and the tourists, Greg Inglis’s ability saved the attacking raid. Replays suggested some uncertainty over Inglis getting the ball down but video official Phil Bentham, green lighted it on the benefit of the doubt rule and the tourists hit the lead.
After 30 minutes the Kangaroos were without Justin Hodges – the injury-prone centre forced from the field. This must have been a frustration for coach Tim Sheens having to throw Knight Kurt Gidley into the centres. But regardless, the tourists kept up their strong surge in the game, just after the half hour mark JT potted a penalty goal to edge them further ahead and the confidence was growing.
It was 14-10 at the break and the Kangaroos were now much more settled and had the run of play in the backend of the half.
To their credit, the Poms kept coming. Incoming NRL star Sam Burgess smashed over the line after 10 minutes to keep his men in the hunt.
The Kangaroos eventually broke away on the score board at around the 1 hour mark, with try scoring machine Morris diving over off a neat Thurston kick. The play setup by a lightning quick Hayne play the ball.
Concern soon after for English centre Michael Shenton after he came together in a horror clash with prop Ben Hannant. After a long delay, the Englishman was taken from the field – the head clash knocking him out for a long period.
Hannant copped a return serve soon after, after himself getting a head knock and needing immediate attention.
At times the Kangaroos began rushing plays, probably too keen to shut the game down.
But Storm custodian Billy Slater remained a constant, cool-force, with his triple at the backend ensuring the tourists got the win and there would be no repeat of the horrors of the World Cup.
AUSTRALIA 46 (B Slater 3 B Morris 2 J Hayne G Inglis C Smith tries J Thurston 7 goals) bt ENGLAND 16 (S Burgess 2 P Fox tries K Sinfield 2 goals) at Elland Road. Referee: Leon Williamson.