Category Archives: Rugby League World Cup

One-sided RLWC grand final sees the Kangaroos thump the Kiwis

Johnathan Thurston

It probably was not the scoreline many would have been expecting but it did highlight the dominance of the Australian Kangaroos side, as they walloped the New Zealand Kiwis in the grand final, finishing up with a 34-2 win.

It was a masterclass from the Australians and a solid all round team performance, with man-of-the-match Johnathan Thurston producing a stellar display, leading from the front.

It is the Aussies’ 10th World Cup crown and it helped to ease the pain of their 2008 defeat, as they put on a show in front of just over 74,000 people in Manchester.

Using the 2008 loss as motivation to win this years World Cup, Australian skipper Cam Smith said it was a complete team performance by the side.

“I made the comment on the field that I can’t remember the last time I played in such a complete game for an Australian side,” Smith said.

“We have been preparing for this for the last four weeks. We have played simple and tough footy.

“I may have told a little white lie in the build-up when I said this didn’t mean too much from 2008.

“But standing out on the field after the match I think a little bit of the disappointment from 2008 was erased.”

Coach Tim Sheens was also extremely pleased, describing it as the best win since he has been coach.

“The seniority in the team really stood up,” he said.

Rather than make excuses, Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney was honest in his assessment – his side was thoroughly out played by a better side.

“I just think Australia’s performance today was nothing short of outstanding,” Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney said.

“They gave us a real lesson.”

There were a few injuries out of the game, with Kiwis winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck re-injuring the same leg he did in the semi final, Greg Inglis suffering ligament damage to his thumb, as well as a couple of other niggling knocks.

Australians with the momentum as they romp home v Fiji and face New Zealand in WC final

Jarryd Hayne

It was just the sort of momentum they wanted leading into the tournament as they prepare to face New Zealand, after the Australian Kangaroos decimated a spirited Fijian side, winning 64-0.

In an eleven tries to zero romp, it was Jarryd Hayne who was once again the star of the game – despite Johnathan Thurston winning the man-of-the-match award – scoring three tries and putting on an all-round clinic.

With a tough game against the Kiwis coming up in the World Cup final, coach Tim Sheens knows that in reality, the game was tougher than it may have seemed and said his side are out to win.

“It was a tougher game than most people would think looking at the scoreline and we have plenty of bruises. We went out to defend well and we did,” Australia coach Tim Sheens said.

“We were embarrassed in the first game against England (in the first game of the tournament) and it will be a big ask next week against New Zealand.

“We have a week to get ready and we will be right.”

It was a one-way ticket to the World Cup as the Australians were firing on all cylinders – even forwards like Josh Papalii, James Tamou and Andrew Fifita getting on the scoresheet.

For Fiji, coach Rick Stone admits that it was a disappointing way for their tournament to end.

“We couldn’t match the Aussies in the skill and power, but we had a good tournament overall,” he said.

“We competed pretty well against England and Australia at times and we need to look at where we can compete more against them.

“We have come a long way since the last World Cup in 2008 and hopefully we can take some bigger steps now.”

Last-second try for New Zealand puts them in the World Cup final

Sam Burgess

Everyone knew the caliber of both teams heading into the clash and it was a game that well and truly lived up to the billing, as the New Zealand side scored a last-second try after some Shaun Johnson magic – leaving England fans stunned and disappointed.

Leading 18-14 with literally seconds on the clock, England may have thought they were home and dry but it was Johnson who would have the final say, weaving and darting his way over the line before converting his own try, to give the Kiwis a 20-18 win.

In what was perhaps one of the games of the tournament so far, England coach Steve McNamara refused to point the blame at any of his players.

“I don’t think he (Sinfield) has got anything to blame himself for, he worked his socks off. It would be very cruel to blame anyone for anything after that result,” he said.

“I’m not sure what the answer is. You have to move on, there are worse things in life. We are all feeling as though we are as low as we can be, but in reality it’s not.

“Worse things happen and we should be privileged we’ve been part of such a brilliant game. I’m sure we will soon get a reality check and realise we have to move on.”

With McNamara now at the end of his contract as England coach, he is unsure what his future in the top job will hold.

“I’m not sure at this stage, it’s too early,” McNamara said of his prospects of staying in the job.

“I have been focused on giving us the best opportunity (at the World Cup). It’s been a pleasure putting this programme together, I have a brilliant staff and great players and it’s something I am proud of and not something I want to give up easily.”

England put up a fight and fought valiantly, with Sam Burgess having a monumental game despite the loss – he was named man of the match – but despite everything, McNamara knows that the key is that players recover from the loss first.

“We are distraught but great credit to New Zealand. This is high-level sport and high-level sport can be cruel. It was for us,” McNamara said.

“I’m not going to try and pick them up yet. They’ve used every ounce of energy they’ve got. It’s raw and we had a brief chat of how tough we’ve been.

“All of them, every single one, have put their hands up, have prepared brilliantly. They have attacked this tournament. We have dealt with things, maybe other teams haven’t. That’s what this England team is all about and we’ve come through the other side and produced a brilliant performance.”

The nail-biting ordeal was enough to have Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney looking away, though it was the character of his side that pleased him the most.

“I was under the desk so I don’t know,” he said when asked how he dealt with the late drama.

“I was always confident of what we could do if we had a minute to go, had the footy and were down by four. It was the 79 minutes before which were pretty hard.

“We gave ourselves a chance with half a minute to go. If you’re good enough, you’re good enough. If you’re under pressure like we were but don’t open the floodgates, you have a chance.”

Despite the last-gasp win, Kearney knows that they will have to improve if they are to beat a rampant Australian side.

“I’m mindful that a performance like that from us will not be good enough next week,” he added.
“We were gritty and tough and there are a lot of areas we need to polish up on but I know we can improve.”

Fiji advance to World Cup semis and look forward to running out at Wembley

Akuila Uate

Fiji will take the win over Samoa to advance to the semi-finals of the World Cup but the chance to run out at Wembley is something they are all looking forward to.

After a strong showing against Samoa that saw them win 22-4, Fiji and especially Fijian captain Petero Civoniceva, are relishing the opportunity to run out at Wembley and play there.

“It was something we didn’t talk about because all our focus and preparation was on this game but we can talk about Wembley now,” said Civoniceva.

“It’s great feeling to know that potentially my last game will be played at (one of) two amazing venues.

“I feel I’ve been very blessed. I started this rugby league ride in 1998 and to be still here, I feel very proud of that.

“I’m really looking forward to enjoying the week, taking it all in with my team-mates.”

At the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington, the Fijians were far too good and led 12-0 before Samoa got on the scoresheet, with their forwards laying the platform and wingers Akuila Uate and Marika Koroibete excelling.

Although there is room to improve, Fijian coach Rick Stone was pleased with the efforts of all his players, especially with the experienced NRL players and how they stood out.

“We didn’t play perfectly in every aspect of the game but to only let in one try was a massive boost for us,” Fiji coach Rick Stone said. “I’m really proud of the boys.

“All our experienced NRL players stood up for us today.”

There were no excuses from Samoan coach Matt Parish, who admits that Fiji were the better side and that his side was outplayed.

“We didn’t play that well but overall I’m happy with the tournament,” said Parish.

“Unfortunately we came up against a better team on the day but personally, it has been one of the best five weeks of my life.”

Slater injured as Kangaroos demolish the Tomahawks in quarter finals

Jarryd Hayne

It was one-way traffic for the entire game as the Kangaroos cruised to victory with a resounding 62-0 win over the Tomahawks, but it was an injury to fullback Billy Slater that was the main talking point.

Despite aggravating an old knee injury, coach Tim Sheens is hopeful that his tournament is not over but concedes that Slater is likely to miss semi-final clash.

“It’s an injury to his old injury – PCL,” said Sheens.

“It’s just what damage may have been done, cartilage and other things.

“We’re just hoping it’s a bad knock but we’re sending him for an MRI tonight.

“We’ve still not given up the thought that he might possibly be available, probably not this week after that sort of knock, the week after if we get that far.”

There are plenty of options for fullback with Slater out, with both Jarryd Hayne and Greg Inglis producing stellar performances – who scored 4 tries and 2 tries respectively, as well as piling on the stats – so the Kangaroos are in good hands at fullback.

“We’ve got a few full-backs actually who can play the game. It’s a still a big loss for us,” added Sheens.

“I’m not going to panic just yet until we get (the results of the MRI). The issue is the knock and how much damage it’s done.”

Sheens was pleased that his side managed to keep another clean sheet, their second of the tournament after a 50-0 drubbing of Ireland in the group stages.

“I think we showed plenty of determination in defence. I think we have the best defensive record in the competition at the moment,” he said.

“We had our pants pulled down early by England (in their opening game) and we’ve determined that won’t happen again, so we’ve really worked hard on that aspect of our game.

“It comes behind a kick-chase game. I was happy with the way we continued to put the pressure on the USA.”

Despite being beaten comprehensively, there was one that thing that USA Tomahawks coach Terry Matterson still had – pride.

Pride in his team and proud of their efforts to make it as far as they did, against the odds.

“I suppose a bit of relief that that game’s over, they’re a wonderful side that we played against,” said Matterson.

“I’m no less proud of these boys for what they’ve done. We’re focusing on what we’ve done in the campaign and reaching the quarter-finals.

“What we’ve done over the last four weeks has been very special and I’ll always hold those players to my heart.

“I’ll always remember and we’ll always have a very strong bond.”

SBW taken off as a precaution as New Zealand thump Scotland

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Despite the best efforts from Stephen Kearney to hose down any speculation regarding a potential injury to key back-rower Sonny Bill Williams, the talk is still there as Kearney says it was merely a precaution and nothing more.

With the New Zealand side putting in a strong showing and building on their solid form so far in the World Cup, things are building nicely for the Kiwis after their 40-4 win over the Scottish side.

“All the players who came off were taken off as a precaution because we had got ourselves into a position where we were able to do that,” said Kearney.

“Now we will assess them over the next week.

“It was a pretty good performance because it has been a tough week of preparing for the match.

Set to play the winner of the England v France game, the Kiwis now wait with bated breath as to who their opponents will be.

“Everyone expected us to get the result, so the lads have done very well in preparing properly and completing the job.

“We knew Scotland would throw a lot at us early on but we handled it and now we turn our attentions to watching the England versus France match.”

For Scotland, whilst it was a spirited effort, there was just too much firepower from the Kiwis and the Bravehearts could not match it.

Regardless of it all, it is an overall effort that the Scottish rugby league community can be proud of, with the nation making it to the quarter finals for the first time in their history.

For coach Steve McCormack, he knows that the key moving forward is to continue their development as a rugby league nation.

“Everything about this tournament has been excellent for Scotland but now it’s important we move forward from here,” he said.

“We got to the quarter-finals for the first time in our history and we the lads have given everything in this tournament, I’m very proud of them.

“We expected New Zealand to be that good – they are a world-class team and I think it will take a good side to beat them.”

Samoa beat France as Agar calls for improvement from his French side for crucial finals clash

Pita Godinet

It was the final game of the group stages at the Rugby League World Cup and one that Samoa took out, as they defeated France 22-6 at Perpignan.

With both sides already guaranteed places in the finals, it was a question of building momentum and it was the Samoans who built most of it, led to victory by Anthony Milford and Pita Godinet.

The forwards laid the required platform and were too much for the French defence to handle but French coach Richard Agar knows if they are to have any chance of defeating England, they need to improve astronomically.

“I thought we had enough opportunities to win the game three times,” said Agar.

The French did have their chances to win but poor errors let them down as well as some bombed tries and as a result, the Samoans capitalised when they had their chances.

“We bombed what looked like certain tries. Our skill level and our execution and the wasted plays we had in the final third of the field didn’t warrant us winning the game,” said Agar.

“It was a disappointing performance from us, particularly in the second half.

“We’ve got to improve. We did some really good things in the first 40 but the level of our performance in the second half is why the scoreboard reads like it does, will need a bit effort and a big lift for next week but if we can play our best football on the day, who knows?”.

For the Samoans, who recorded their second consecutive win, they will take on fellow in-form Island nation Fiji, in what is billed as one of the games to watch.

It was not all rosy, however, with three Samoan players placed on report – one of them twice in Sauaso Sue – and a sin-binning but despite all that, coach Matt Parish was pleased that his side got the win.

“The French are a very good team and they certainly showed some good attack but I’m immensely proud of the way my team defended and the way they worked for one another,” Parish said.

“It’s never easy to come here and win. I’m very proud.”

Cook Islands hold off late Welsh fightback and win their first ever World Cup game.

Dylan Napa

There is a first time for everything and for the Cook Islands, after six attempts to do so at the World Cup level, they have won their first game – a 28-24 win over Wales.

They were made to work hard for it, though, as the Welsh fought back valiantly towards the end of the game but the Cook Islands held on for a historic first win in the World Cup.

It was a commanding performance from the Kukis early on as they raced out to a 22-4 lead before relinquishing it but still holding on for the win, as coach David Fairleigh reflected on what was a huge day for his players.

“It is good we have finished on a winning note. We were disappointed losing against America, it was a game we should have won, and then we missed a couple of opportunities against Tonga,” he said.

“There was some really bad defence by us in the second half, but today was our day. It is a big day for the Cook Islands, their first win in a World Cup.”

For Wales, it was a tournament to forget, as they failed to win any of their group games.

Despite that, there were some stellar patches of football from them and even with a poor overall World Cup performance, coach Iestyn Harris knows that there are some positives to take out of the game and the tournament.

“I think our pack is very good and solid and within the next four years, they are going to be formidable,” the former dual-code international said.

“We probably lacked a bit of quality in terms of execution on the edges and it is about going away from the World Cup and seeing what we have to do to improve.

“We are doing a lot of work with our youth policy, so there is a lot being done. Hopefully, over the next three or four years, we will see the fruits of our labours come through.

“We have got some very good quality, we probably just needed a little bit of direction throughout the World Cup.

“We probably lacked that one dominant person to steer us around the field, but that is not a negative against anyone because they did absolutely everything they could do to be at their best.”

For Harris, he knows that the key to gaining success down the track is playing to the right intensity and having the right players involved.

“Whether it is me or whoever else does the work over the next three or four years, it is about getting the players used to that type of intensity and being comfortable with it,” said Harris.

Australia’s big win over Ireland gives coach Sheens some selection headaches

Andrew Fifita

Whilst the big win is one that the Kangaroos will take and look to build on, the task for Tim Sheens to pick his best side moving forward will not be an easy one, with several positions still up in the air.

After a strong showing from players that were not initially named in the opening game, it gives Sheens selection headaches – but the veteran coach says that come the game against the USA Tomahawks, he will field his strongest side.

With Australia adopting a fringe rotation throughout the World Cup, Sheens will pick the best 17 so far.

“I didn’t get any injuries so I’ve got to come close to picking probably our best 17 on the next game,” Sheens said.

“It’s a real headache for me because we’ve got so many guys playing well.

“I’ve got a couple of contentious positions in particular but we’ll work on that during the week.”

Despite the big win over the Irish side, the Australians lacked cohesion and fluidity at times and Sheens puts that down to the constant chopping and changing of the side – a fault of his own.

“I blame myself a bit for that,” Sheens said.

“…. All the halves have had a couple of runs, they’re as cranky as hell about that as I know they’re all competitive.

“But at the end of the day we’ve achieved after the three pool games to lead our pool and we’ve played pretty well.

“I think we can play better so I’m hoping we’ll improve that.”

For the Irish side, whilst the tournament was not a great one in retrospect – the Irish side lost all three of their pool games – coach Mark Aston was pleased with his side’s effort.

“It was always going to be tough. We were playing high-quality opposition,” he said.

“But I’m proud of what we served up. They had double the sets we had and the penalty count played a big part. It’s hard enough playing the best in the world without not getting the bounce of the ball and the rub of the green.

“But we stuck in, had a dig and showed character.”

With rugby league in Ireland still a developing sport, Aston knows that the challenge is getting players to come on board from Union and immerse themselves in the league culture.

“We’d like a level playing field and we only got together three Saturdays ago,” he admitted.

“There are 48 development officers for rugby union in this area alone. How can we get them to play rugby league? But we will be smart and do what we can.

“Tonight we needed to make sure we were loud and proud and we were.”

England prevail in a tough Test against Fiji at the World Cup

Sam Burgess

With the finals of the World Cup fast approaching, it was just the sort of clash the English needed – at least according to coach Steve McNamara – who saw his side win 34-12 against a tough Fijian outfit.

Trailing the Fijians at one point just before the break, they turned on the afterburners when it mattered and piled on the points, in a strong showing against a dogged Fijian side.

“It was a proper Test match,” McNamara said.

“We always knew it would be.

“It was a very tough test match. It’s exactly the test we needed. I think it bodes well for us in the quarter-finals.”

With more poise and direction in the second half, the 15 minute blitz and more direct play left McNamara pleased.

“We were a little bit more direct (in the second half) and I think we did that tremendously well,” said McNamara.

The players themselves could see that their overall play was lacklustre, with prop Sam Burgess commenting on how poor their first half was and how good their second half was.

“We did not play to our strengths in the first half. It was a great team effort (in the second half) and I’m very happy for the team,” said Burgess.

For the Fijians, although their efforts were valiant, coach Rick Stone admits that the experience and prowess of the English side was just too good for them in the second half.

“I am pretty proud of the guys and the way we played, especially in the first half,” said Stone.

“Obviously it was a really good effort.

“But England were great in the first 20 minutes of the second half and we couldn’t contain them. We kept fighting on and gave it all we had.

“We’re enjoying the experience. For some of the boys who have never left home before it has certainly been an amazing experience.”