Australia vs New Zealand match report: Aussies run riot at Anfield to claim victory in Four Nations final

Australia 34 New Zealand 8: Mal Meninga's team went through the tournament unbeaten and reclaimed the world number one ranking after beating the Kiwis in Sunday's final

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The Independent Online

Australia re-established themselves as the gold standard for international rugby league with a convincing win at Anfield in the final of the Four Nations. 

The old brains trust of players of the calibre of Jonathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith might not play in this country again. If that is the case, they left plenty to remember them by in a first half demonstration of rugby league know-how.  

New Zealand have had some famous victories over Australia in recent years, but few expected them to lift their game sufficiently to win in Liverpool. True to current form, they never looked remotely likely to do so, until too late and too deep in the second half. 

On top of their original list of absentees, their coach, David Kidwell, had to find a stand-in for broken jaw victim Thomas Leuluai, something he achieved by handing the number six shirt to Tohu Harris, usually a second-rower. 

It smacked of mind-games when Kidwell delayed announcing that decision and confirming the rest of his team until the last possible moment. 

That hardly looked to have planted any seeds of doubt in the Australian psyche when, inside the third minute, they scored with a simple blind-side move, direct from a scrum. Blake Ferguson had an easy path to the line on the end of Darius Boyd's long pass, with Harris too slow to cover. 

Some enterprising handling, especially from Adam Blair, saw the Kiwis on the attack for the next ten minutes, but unable to translate field position into points. 

Instead, Valentine Holmes' breakaway run put the Aussies on the front foot and again they scored straight away, with another Boyd pass putting in Josh Dugan. Clinical does not begin to describe it and Holmes and Dugan, two of the younger brigade, were every bit as ruthless as their elders. 

Trent Merrin of Australia celebrates scoring his team's third try with Johnathan Thurston (L) and Cameron Smith (Getty)

A Thurston penalty took the lead into double figures  and the New Zealand tenure on top spot of the world rankings already looked shaky; all the more so when Trent Merrin crashed over from Smith's short ball. 

Australia were beating the so-called best team in the world to the tune of very nearly a point a minute. Dugan got his second  from Thurston's delicate kick and the bragging rights were on their way back across the Tasman. 

The outstanding Darius Boyd slid in for another early in the second half, as the Kangaroos continued to pile up the points. It almost felt like a kiwi victory when they kept Holmes out in the corner, but the green and gold standard  had been set. 

There was further jubilation among New Zealanders and the British fans who always support the Kiwis in these affairs when Jordan Kahu touched down for their first points, followed by another from the full-back. It almost looked like respectabiity, but too much damage had been done earlier. 

Boyd Cordner crossed late to emphasise the point. 

From an English point of view, the tournament cannot be counted as a success. Not only did the host country fail to reach the final, but attendances were well below projections as the format continued to struggle in vain to capture the public's imagination. Such a one-sided final will hardly have helped. 

Australia: D.Boyd; Holmes, Inglis, Dugan, Ferguson; Thurston, Cronk; Scott, Smith, Woods, Cordner, Gillett, Merrin. 

Subs: Klemmer, S.Boyd, Morgan, Frizzell 

New Zealand: Tahu; Rapana, Kenny-Dowell, Kata, Fusitua; Harris, Johnson; Bromwich, Luke, Blair, Proctor, Ma'u, Taumalolo. 

Subs: Brown, Taupau, Eastwood, Tapine 

Referee: B.Cummings