venue: Telstra Dome, Melbourne
2nd November 2008
Full Match Report
RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP GROUP A
England slumped to their worst World Cup defeat as Australia continued the defence of their crown with a nine-try demolition job in Melbourne. Greg Inglis and Billy Slater both claimed hat-tricks as the Kangaroos reinforced the belief that this tournament is theirs to lose.
England were never in it as they were ripped apart inside the Telstra Dome. James Roby scored their only try midway through the first half but that was the sole highlight for Tony Smith's side.
England should still qualify for the knockout stages but the size of the defeat will have hurt them badly, surpassing the 49-6 thrashing by New Zealand in the 2000 semi-finals at Bolton. They face the Kiwis in their final pool match next weekend, while Australia round off their group campaign by taking on Papua New Guinea.
The Kangaroos went into the game against England as overwhelming favourites following their hammering of the Kiwis in their opening game - and they did not disappoint. Kevin Sinfield put a good early hit on Slater but Mark Calderwood, taking the place of the injured Lee Smith, failed to inspire confidence in defence by spilling the first high ball to come his way. It went from bad to worse for England, Slater grabbing the first try after just five minutes when he reacted quickest to Scott Prince's kick through to touch down. Prince, playing instead of the injured Johnathan Thurston, added the extras to put the Kangaroos 6-0 up.
It soon became 12-0 four minutes later as the home side cut through the England defence with ease, Inglis shrugging off two poor tackles to dive over on the left. Prince kicked the conversion to really pile the pressure on Tony Smith's side.
After a shaky start, England grabbed a lifeline on 20 minutes when Roby cut the deficit following some quick play-the-ball that ate up plenty of territory. The hooker burrowed his way to the line despite five Australians hanging off him, the presence of Keith Senior and Calderwood no doubt helping the St Helens star get downward pressure. Sinfield missed the kick at goal, but England were back in the game.
They came close to adding a second try shortly afterwards, but James Graham's bulldozing run to the line was superbly repelled by the home defence. The Australians began to make uncharacteristic handling errors, presenting England with several unexpected opportunities to attack again. But just when it looked as though the tide was turning, the Kangaroos extended their lead to 12 again when Inglis dived over in the left-hand corner following some incisive running and passing.
The advantage became 18 when Anthony Laffranchi claimed Australia's fourth try just before the break, Prince making three from four attempts at goal to make the half-time score 22-4. England began to throw the ball around after the break, but a little too wildly to have any impact. They certainly did not look like penetrating the Australian defence, passes all too frequently going to ground in promising positions.
With the game effectively over, the defending champions scored their fifth try of the match when Joel Monaghan went over following some good work in the build up from Slater and skipper Darren Lockyer. Their sixth was a classic, the scintillating Slater running 90 metres and turning Calderwood one way and then the other before dicing over for his second try of the match.
And it did not take long for them to bag a seventh, Inglis picking up the loose ball from England's short kick-off and running 60 metres for his hat-trick score.
Slater soon made it three of his own, taking a pass from Prince and beating Leon Pryce and Martin Gleeson before touching down. Laffranchi then took the score past 50 with his second try of the game when the England defence was ripped apart yet again.
Slater, Monaghan, Inglis, Folau, Tate, Lockyer, Prince, Civoniceva, Smith, Price, Stewart, Laffranchi, Gallen. Replacements: Hunt, Perry, Tupou, Kite.
Wellens, Gardner, Gleeson, Senior, Calderwood, Pryce, Burrow, Morley, Roby, Graham, Peacock, Ellis, Sinfield. Replacements: Fa'asavalu, Hock, McGuire, Wilkin