Australia keep their distance from England

DAVE HADFIELD

reports from Wembley

Australia 16 England 8

The names and places might change, but British sides always find a way of losing to Australia when it really matters.

They managed it in the Halifax Centenary World Cup final on Saturday by losing sight of the principles that had taken them to Wembley with every chance of reversing recent rugby league history.

Fundamental errors, coupled with a fatal shortage of initiative and enterprise, undermined all England's hopes. They could argue that they had been unlucky in a series of borderline decisions which went against them; for the most part, they saved their breath, because they knew they had been beaten by a far better side on the day.

That must have been the really annoying thing for the coach, Phil Larder, and his captain, Denis Betts, as they listened through the open windows of the press conference to a sound that has become all too familiar - that of Australians celebrating.

It remains true that, man for man, England had better players than Australia in this World Cup. That, for all Bob Fulton's sophistry on the subject, is largely due to a dozen world class players being left at home for political reasons.

What is depressing is that, even without Daley and Clyde et al, they were still good enough when they had to be. Ever since 1990, we have been that close; take out virtually a whole generation of their cream and we are still that close.

Saturday's defeat brought back memories of the 1992 World Cup final, also at Wembley. In fairness, it was not quite that bad.

Three years ago, the appropriate analogy for the home team's performance was that of a man who hoped to win the lottery without buying a ticket. This year, they pecked and picked at the issue as though it was a scratch- card when a bolder investment was needed.

Too much reliance was placed on the kicking game of Bobbie Goulding, which was never at its best. Too much went straight down the throat of the Australian full-back, Tim Brasher, and only once, in the first minute, did he attempt his trademark - the hugely productive cross-kick for his winger.

Part of the explanation is that England rarely worked their way into the right position to give Goulding the angle for that ploy. They might also have done better if Andy Farrell had been able to play a full part. He has the range in his boot to drive back a defence from anywhere on the field, but his groin injury restricted him to kicking occasionally and gingerly.

He was also short of full mobility and spent half-time pacing the corridor outside the dressing room, rather than risk sitting down and stiffening up.

There was something stiff and inflexible about the whole English performance. They looked anxious from the start and ruined an opening phase of pressure that brought a Goulding penalty by conceding possession straight from the kick-off.

Larder does not publically criticise his players lightly, but he described the way Phil Clarke had let the ball run off his foot as ''a very big error''.

It produced Australia's first try and, although it looked a debatable one at the time, the far-side camera showed that Rod Wishart had indeed got pressure on the ball.

Likewise the ruling that Martin Offiah had put a foot in touch before getting the ball away for Paul Newlove to follow up and touch down. It was another close call, but slow motion reveals that Offiah's back foot had shaved the line.

Had the game's most prolific winger been his true self, the question would not have arisen, because he would have flown in without going near the touchline or the Australian cover defence.

But the departure, temporary or permanent, of Offiah's pace was plain to see in the struggle he had to shake off Steve Menzies at the start of his run. Admittedly Menzies is fast for a forward; that is what Offiah is at the moment - fast for a forward.

There was no debate about it when Newlove went over to give England hope early in the second half, but again possession was lost straight after the restart when Mick Cassidy knocked on.

The moment when England could have snatched the match came when Tony Smith broke through from Betts' pass and appeared to be tripped by Brasher, the last line of defence.

The video certainly suggested that it was the prostrate Brasher's leg rather than his hand that brought Smith down, but Betts' view, as good as anyone's, was that his team-mate had fallen over his own feet.

That is a fitting epitaph for a display which promised so much but delivered little. England did not deserve to win and, if Brasher's clinching try for Australia was a messy one, it produced a final scoreline that reflected the real gap between the sides.

Even without a galaxy of stars, there was a basic soundness about them that England could not match - although a few more players as ill as the admirable Gary Connolly would have helped - and their pivotal trio of Geoff Toovey, Brad Fittler and the man of the match, Andrew Johns, controlled the game.

Control was what England lacked. ''When you make as many errors and concede as many penalties as we did, you are committing suicide,'' Larder said. You can carve that on another headstone in the graveyard where British hopes against Australia are laid to rest - a place that is already over- crowded.

England: Tries Newlove; Goals Goulding 2. Australia: Tries Brasher, Wishart; Goals A Johns 4.

AUSTRALIA: Brasher (Sydney Tigers); Wishart (Illawarra), Coyne (St George), Hill (Manly), Dallas (Sydney Bulldogs); Fittler (Penrith), Toovey (Manly); Pay (Sydney Bulldogs), A Johns (Newcastle), Carroll (Manly), Menzies (Manly), Larson (North Sydney), Dymock (Sydney Bulldogs). Substitutes: J Smith (Sydney Bulldogs) for Carroll, 50; Carroll for Smith, 61; Smith for Pay, 76.

ENGLAND: Radlinski (Wigan); Robinson (Wigan), Connolly (Wigan), Newlove (Bradford), Offiah (Wigan); Smith (Castleford), Goulding (St Helens); Harrison (Halifax), Jackson (Sheffield), Platt (Auckland), Betts (Auckland), Clarke (Sydney City), Farrell (Wigan). Substitutes: Cassidy (Wigan) for Harrison, 30; Harrison for Platt, 61; Joynt (St Helens) for Cassidy, 69; Platt for Harrison, 70.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments