venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
31st October 2010
Full Match Report
England's Four Nations hopes were snuffed out in all-too familiar fashion as they were beaten 34-14 by Australia in the rain in Melbourne. Coach Steve McNamara fielded a new-look side, including three debutants, but the old failings were still there as they failed to compete with a Kangaroos side that was simply too strong and too skilful for them.
The holders ran in six tries to two to secure an impressive victory in front of a disappointing 18,894 crowd at AAMI Park and clinch their place in the Four Nations final against New Zealand in Brisbane on November 13, leaving England to once more leave the party early. McNamara's men now face the ignominious prospect of a wooden-spoon decider with Papua New Guinea, a match that will be played as a curtain-raiser to a final dress rehearsal between the Kangaroos and Kiwis in Auckland next Saturday.
England briefly threatened to spring an upset when they led 8-6 after 14 minutes, but in conditions which ought to have played into their hands they let their opportunity slip in a crucial 10-minute spell in which they conceded three tries to trail 26-8 by half-time. The tourists had no answer to the immaculate kicking game of scrum-half Cooper Cronk or the damaging runs from second-row pair Luke Lewis, who scored the Kangaroos' first two tries, and Sam Thaiday.
The tourists made an ominous start, conceding two early penalties and a goal-line drop-out before having a serious look at their hosts' tryline. Australia also had a claim for a penalty try after centre Ryan Atkins tackled his opposite number Brent Tate a fraction early but video referee Steve Clark gave England the benefit of the doubt.
It only delayed the inevitable, however, with Lewis taking Darren Lockyer's pass and going between Leroy Cudjoe and Sean O'Loughlin for the game's opening try. It was a wretched start for the tourists but they struck back within four minutes when hard-working South Sydney forward Sam Burgess took a pinpoint pass from James Roby to stride through the Kangaroos defence for an equalising try.
Ben Westwood kicked the conversion and put England in front after 14 minutes when Australia loose forward Paul Gallen was pulled up for a high tackle on Luke Robinson. The lead lasted just three minutes, however, with Lewis grabbing a second try after Lockyer's grubber kick bounced awkwardly over the tryline and video referee Clark this time gave the Penrith man the benefit of the doubt.
As the rain steadily began to fall, England's handling deteriorated rapidly and handling errors from Darrell Goulding and Roby enabled the Kangaroos to maintain the pressure. When winger Tom Briscoe fumbled Lockyer's high kick, it gifted a try to full-back Billy Slater, while Atkins' knock-on 10 metres out from his own line was punished by Tate for try number four.
It was all one-way traffic and Lewis could have had a hat-trick after bursting clean through the fragile England defence but he unselfishly handed on to centre Willie Tonga for him to claim Australia's fifth try. When Cameron Smith kicked a third conversion it meant the Aussies had scored 20 unanswered points to establish an 18-point interval lead.
Robinson scurried over for an opportunist try from dummy half two minutes into the second half and his Huddersfield team-mate Cudjoe added the conversion to narrow the gap to 12 points. But any prospect of a comeback was ended after 46 minutes when winger Lote Tuqiri went over for a sixth try, despite the suspicion of a forward pass earlier in the move, and Smith kicked his fourth conversion.
With the conditions deteriorating by the minute, Australia opted to kick a penalty to keep the scoreboard ticking over but it remained motionless for the last 20 minutes. England, in fact, finished the game on top but they were unable to add to their score. Hooker Shaun Lunt was ruled to have been held short after taking an offload from Burgess, who was ruled offside when he touched down Robinson's grubber kick, while stand-off Sean O'Loughlin reached the line only to be held up by Slater.
Billy Slater Brett Morris Brent Tate Willie Tonga Lote Tuqiri Darren Lockyer (c) Cooper Cronk Paul Gallen Sam Thaiday Luke Lewis Petero Civoniceva Cameron Smith Nate Myles. Subs (two to be omitted) David Shillington Tom Learoyd-Lahrs Anthony Watmough Kurt Gidley Dean Young Darius Boyd
Sam Tomkins, Darrell Goulding, Leroy Cudjoe, Ryan Atkins, Tom Briscoe, Sean O’Loughlin, Luke Robinson, Sam Burgess, James Roby, James Graham (c) , Gareth Ellis, Joel Tomkins, Ben Westwood. Subs: Stuart Fielden, Eorl Crabtree, Ben Harrison, Shaun Lunt