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RugbyL: Australia hand Kiwis a masterclass to win World Cup

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Australia regained their place at the head of rugby league's top table with a 34-2 thrashing of defending champions New Zealand in the World Cup final on Saturday.

The Kangaroos scored five tries in a sublime performance of hard-nosed defence mixed with a superior kicking game and a sharp eye for an attacking opportunity in outplaying a sluggish Kiwi side that failed to fire.

Australia, guided magnificently around Old Trafford by outstanding playmaker Johnathan Thurston, thrived on their quick play-the-balls and a defensive line that never ceded a linebreak to a Kiwi side much lauded for its attacking edge led by the off-loading, cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams.

Remarkably, it was the fifth successive game since their opening 28-20 pool victory over England that the Kangaroos had not conceded a try, one match off the record held by the 1981-2 'Invincibles' side.

Australia had the first real attacking chance, one-time Fijian Jarryd Hayne knocking on a Cooper Cronk cross-field kick after prop Jesse Bromwich had spilled the ball early on the first Kiwi set in a sign of what was to come.

Thurston opened the scoring with a simple penalty after Kieran Foran nudged Bill Slater off chasing a bomb.

The ambitious naming of injury-troubled star winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the starting 13 backfired when he was led off limping after just eight minutes.

With only four big men on the interchange, it all became a little "route one" and predictable for New Zealand.

The intensity was there for all to see and indeed hear, Kiwi captain Simon Mannering putting in a crunching hit on Hayne and his hooker Issac Luke drawing all manner of swinging arms with his early darts from dummy-half.

Aussi skipper Cameron's Smith high shot on Elijah Taylor did not go unmissed, however, Shaun Johnson bringing New Zealand level after 15 minutes.

Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens had said the game would be won on the "one-percenters", and when Thurston chased down a speculative Smith kick Kevin Locke failed to return out of his in-goal area, it handed Australia a fresh set of six tackles.

The pressure told, Thurston dabbing a little chip in on the fifth tackle which Slater soared high to retrieve, then land and swivel in one motion to ground the ball for a try Thurston converted.

Australia were denied a second try after a superb tackle by Luke on Cronk over the tryline, the Kangaroo scrum-half held up after gathering a clever cross kick from Hayne.

Cronk was then on hand to hold up Manu Vatuvei down the other end after a similar Johnson kick to the corner.

And the scrum-half was again in the thick of the action after a slick handling move saw Darius Boyd race down his left wing and put in a little grubber that the supporting Cronk scooped up to cross the whitewash.

Thurston converted and the Kiwis were reeling under the relentless green-and-gold assault.

A sloppy late tackle by Ben Matulino on Cronk gifted the Kangaroos a penalty opportunity just a minute later, Thurston making no mistake for a 16-2 half-time lead.

There was a disastrous opening to the second period for the Kiwis, Slater crossing for his second just 48 seconds after the Kiwi restart.

The influential Smith spotted a gap, Thurston drew the defence to set Boyd off and the winger found Slater back on his inside.

Thurston converted to leave the Kiwis floundering and there was more to come, Morris grounding a kick ahead from Hayne after good handling skills from prop Andrew Fifita and Morris' own chip. Thurston bagged the extras.

To rub salt in Kiwi wounds, Morris got his second after Hayne intercepted a floated Williams pass and managed to offload with the line begging.

lp/ak

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131130/rugbyl-australia-hand-kiwis-masterclass-win-world-cup-0