The scoreboard does not lie, but it can be prone to exaggeration. Five years ago in the Tri-Nations final, Australia produced something close to perfection in the first half at Elland Road. On Saturday they won the Four Nations with an irresistible last half-hour.
From struggling for parity with an England team full of vigour in the forwards and adventure in the halves, the Kangaroos suddenly leapt to a level you could only marvel at.
Six tries in 27 minutes made a mockery of England's worthy efforts before that. If there was one moment that summed up their dazzling skill, it was when their captain, Darren Lockyer, kicked through and Billy Slater soared beyond the dead-ball line to drag it back for Cameron Smith to touch down. Heads might never have dropped on the pitch, but jaws did.
Slater scored a hat-trick of his own, but was still outshone by the creative brilliance of Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston – and then there was the dazzling threat of Greg Inglis and Jarryd Hayne. It all served to obscure so much good work that England had done earlier in the game.
Led by a swashbuckling performance from the Australia-bound Sam Burgess, England had the better of a compelling first 50 minutes. Burgess scored two rampaging tries, but crucially failed to pass to the supporting Sam Tomkins when that would have brought another. Australia went straight to the other end and what could have been 12-0 became 6-6.
England also had the rough end of a video-referee decision for the Inglis try that put Australia ahead for the first time. But, as their coach, Tony Smith, said, you have to be good enough to overcome those setbacks. "It was really hard work," admitted his opposite number, Tim Sheens. "We just stuck in and then we started to play some football." Fond of a little under-statement is Mr Sheens.
England: S Briscoe; P Fox, C Bridge, M Shenton, R Hall; S Tomkins, K Eastmond; A Morley, K Sinfield, J Graham, J Peacock, G Ellis, S Burgess. Substitutes used: J Roby, E Crabtree, B Westwood, J Wilkin.
Australia: B Slater; J Hayne, G Inglis, J Hodges, B Morris; D Lockyer, J Thurston; P Civoniceva, C Smith, B Hannant, L Lewis, P Gallen, N Hindmarsh. Substitutes used: S Thaiday, A Watmough, K Gidley, B White.
Referee: L Williamson (New Zealand)Reuse content