England vs Australia match report: Home side see Four Nations hopes end as Kangaroos set-up New Zealand final

England 18 Australia 36: England's chances of reaching the Four Nations series final were ended after damning defeat to Australia

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The Independent Online

England wilted under the pressure to gift New Zealand a place in the final of the Ladbrokes Four Nations Series.

A crushing 36-18 defeat to world champions Australia at the London Stadium meant elimination for Wayne Bennett's men and gives the Kiwis the chance to defend their title against the Kangaroos at Anfield next Sunday.

Scotland had levered the door open for England with their stunning 18-18 draw with New Zealand on Friday but Bennett's team were not up to the task against a clinical Australian side that, in truth, never really got out of third gear in front of a disappointing crowd of 35,569.

A fifth win out of five was especially sweet for Australia coach Mal Meninga, coming at the expense of his one-time mentor, of whom questions are sure to be raised following England's failure to reach the final, 12 months on from gaining a Test series triumph over world number one nation New Zealand.

The appointment of the veteran Bennett, widely recognised as the best coach in Australian rugby league history, was meant to turn England into world-beaters but they have arguably gone backwards under him.

England were typically strong up front but lacked creativity despite fielding a third different half-back pairing in as many games and a failure to carry some of the basic functions cost them dear.

Scrum-half Gareth Widdop and hooker Josh Hodgson both committed the ultimate sin of failing to find touch from what ought to have been pressure-relieving penalties at crucial times in the first half when England were at least competitive.

Widdop and Johnathan Thurston traded early penalties in a cautious opening but England demonstrated their confidence to run a penalty from in front of the posts on 25 minutes and it paid off when winger Jermaine McGillvary gratefully accepted a long pass from full-back Jonny Lomax, who was their best player, to cross for the game's first try.

The 6-2 lead was deserved but there were too many weak links in the England team and the unfortunate Mark Percival compounded an early fumble in a notable attacking position with a couple of handling errors deep inside his own line which put his side under pressure.

That told on 36 minutes when Australia full-back Darius Boyd cleverly patted the ball on for right winger Blake Ferguson to go over for his fourth try in five appearances.

Thurston converted from the touchline and added a 40-metre penalty in first-half stoppage time to increase the Kangaroos' lead to 10-6.

England might have been in front early in the second half when Hodgson produced a half-break to give Sam Burgess a clear sight of the tryline but the skipper could not hold onto the ball and it proved to be their last chance for glory.

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Josh Dugan goes over for Australia at the London Stadium (Getty )

Three minutes later another fumble 10 metres out gave Australia a 10-metre scrum and centre Greg Inglis all too easily powered his way over from it.

Thurston maintained his unerring accuracy to make it 16-6 and that was the signal for Bennett to introduce George Williams from the bench in a bid to pep up England's attack but it did nothing to patch up their defensive weaknesses.

Kangaroos prop Matt Scott took the entire England front row over the line with him to score his side's fourth try and man of the match Cooper Cronk eluded the attempted tackle of Percival to get centre Josh Dugan over.

With the contest over as a competition, the game opened up in the final quarter.

Williams showed some nice touches to engineer tries for Widdop and winger Ryan Hall - his 31st in as many appearances - but second-rower Matt Gillett and winger Valentine Holmes continued to punish woeful England defence with further tries and Thurston took his goal tally to six from eight attempts.

PA

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