Australia put together a totally dominant performance to end the Kiwis five-year reign as world champions by winning today's Rugby League World Cup final 34-2 at Old Trafford in Manchester. Photo: Photosport


Playing in front of a crowd of close to 75,000 - a world record for a rugby league international - the Kangaroos scored five tries and, for the fifth game on end, kept their opposition try-less, a remarkable achievement underlining their authority throughout the tournament.


What became a trying day for a Kiwi side well down on its best began disastrously when wing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was out of the contest the first time the world champions had possession.


Tuivasa-Sheck had been in doubt all week with a shin injury picked up against England last week. He didnt look comfortable bringing a kick back, stayed on the ground after the tackle and was immediately taken off. It resulted in Alex Glenn coming on in the centres and Dean Whare moving to the wing.


Johnathan Thurston and Shaun Johnson exchanged early penalties but the Kiwis, losing possession twice in the opening minutes, gifted the Kangaroos territory and the ability to dictate the tempo.


They soon profited with a 19th minute Billy Slater try when he collected a pinpoint Thurston kick above Kieran Foran for a trademark touchdown. Thurstons conversion made it 8-2.


Cooper Cronk should have had a try in the 25th minute after snaring a Jarryd Hayne kick but replays revealed Issac Luke had done remarkably well to hold him up, Andrew Fifita also penalised for a driver offence.


After dodging that bullet the Kiwis created their only clear-cut scoring opportunity of the half when left wing Manu Vatuvei soared to bring in a Johnson kick but he was stopped from scoring when he was collared by brave defence.


In the 31st minute Cronk couldnt be denied when he collected a kick which found ground for a try, Thurstons conversion giving Australia a 16-2 lead it held until the break.


If halftime ought to have given the Kiwis the opportunity to regroup and stay in the contest they were instantly knocked off their rhythm.


From the opening set the Kangaroos engineered a stunning long-range raid finishing in a second try for Slater and then they added another for Brett Morris in the 52nd minute.


The Kiwis kept searching for something tangible on the scoreboard but it wasnt coming. As they went to their left Sonny Bill Williams tried to ignite a try-scoring opening but instead Hayne plucked off his pass and the Australians went the length of the field for Morris to score his second try, taking the score into the thirties.


It was an abject failure for the Kiwis on the big occasion when in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup final and again two years later in the Four Nations decider they had stayed with and ultimately finished ahead of Australia. They never gave themselves a chance today against an Australian side utterly committed to righting the wrongs from five years ago.


Tuivasa-Sheck's early exit was a huge setback doubtless raising questions whether he should have been risked. A wiser choice would have been to use the experienced Jason Nightingale.


But even allowing for that the Kiwis didn't help themselves and never settled into the game. Rushed by Australia's inspired defensive effort, the Kiwis were out of sorts on attack - they didn't make one line break - and were also exposed on defence, provisionally missing 30 tackles while the Kangaroos missed just nine.


There were some brave contributions in defeat, though.


Sonny Bill Williams had moments he'd want to forget but was always involved making 140 metres from 17 runs and throwing in 29 tackles as well. His contribution, however, highlighted a key shortcoming for the Kiwis; he was the only Kiwi to top 100 metres on a day when the team's big men up front weren't able to gain any sort of ascendancy.


Elijah Taylor made 42 tackles, Issac Luke - also subdued - had 36 and Simon Mannering 33 to lead the Kiwis' defence while Vatuvei never stopped trying to the point he risked serious injury whe he smashed into the hoardings hunting an attacking bomb. From 16 wholehearted runs he made 148 metres.


It was a bitter way for the Kiwis to end their campaign in a final which had promised so much. The pain of it showed afterwards, many of the New Zealand players visibly upset after what had unfolded.


Match details:


At Old Trafford, Manchester

Kangaroos 34 (Billy Slater 2, Brett Morris 2, Cooper Cronk tries; Johnathan Thurston 5 conversions, 2 penalties).

Kiwis 2 (Shaun Johnson penalty).

Halftime: 16-2 Kangaroos.

Referee: Richard Silverwood (England)

Crowd: 74,468.

Man of the Match: Johnathan Thurston (Australia).