Slater's slips spell end of Aussie rule

New Zealand 34 Australia 20

The best player in the world made one of the worst errors imaginable in the World Cup final as New Zealand gloriously ended Australia's era of domination.

Australia had won every World Cup since 1975 and, despite being pushed hard by the Kiwis, were well placed for a late surge to win this one here in Brisbane on Saturday. But then Billy Slater, last week voted International Player of the Year, intercepted a kick with typical athleticism and tried to counter-attack audaciously down the touchline. That was his first miscalculation. His second was to hurl the ball back as he was carted out of play into the waiting arms of Benji Marshall, who turned a two-point lead into six.

Australia never recovered, but their coach, Ricky Stuart, refused to blame the swashbuckling full-back. "When you get the ball in your hands so many times there's going to be a mistake," he said of Slater's gamble. "If you took that out of his game, he wouldn't be the Billy Slater we all love. If you eliminated that from his game, you'd be losing a great footy player."

Stuart also refused – publicly, at any rate – to blame two decisions from the video referee, Steve Ganson, that had a crucial bearing on the result. One led to a contentious second Kiwi try being allowed, the other to the award of a rare penalty try at Test level.

The head of the tournament referees, Mick Stone, backed up Ganson's difficult decision-making. "It was the hardest game of the tournament to officiate on, but I couldn't say he got anything wrong," he said.

Within the confines of their own dressing room, Australia were not as convinced.

This should be a story not just about them losing, but about an unfancied Kiwi side winning their first World Cup against the odds. A year ago they were humiliated 3-0 in a Test series in England, with Gary Kemble losing his coaching job amid infighting. Stephen Kearney did not exactly seem to have turned things around when New Zealand trudged to a 30-6 defeat by Australia in the opening game of this tournament, but with the vastly experienced Wayne Bennett helping out they developed momentum as it went on.

Kearney was reluctant to pick out stars from a team which, in one sense, has no stars, but he got eye-catching performances out of Adam Blair, David Fa'alogo and Jeremy Smith in the pack, while Lance Hohaia at full-back was hugely effective."I just look at our defence," said Kearney. "We didn't have to score after half-time, but we couldn't let them score another."

Australia's captain, Darren Lockyer was magnificent and did not deserve to be on a losing side. In fits and starts, they showed how brilliant a back division they have but the Kiwis' relentless effort demanded 80 minutes of excellence to counter it. For once on the World Stage, Australia could not quite produce the goods.

Australia: Slater; Williams, Inglis, Folau, Monaghan; Lockyer, Thurston; Kite, C Smith, Civoniceva, Laffranchi, Stewart, Gallen. Substitutes: Hunt, Watmough, Fitzgibbon,Tupou.

New Zealand: Hohaia; Perrett, Mannering, Ropati, Vatuvei; Marshall, Fien; Cayless, Leuluai, Blair, Harrison, Fa'alogo, J Smith. Substitutes: Luke, Eastwood, Rapira, Manu.

Referee: A Klein (England).

Rugby League World Cup Team of the Tournament

1 Billy Slater (Australia)

2 Akuila Uate (Fiji)

3 Greg Inglis (Australia)

4 Jerome Ropati (New Zealand)

5 Damien Blanch (Ireland)

6 Darren Lockyer (Australia)

7 Nathan Fien (New Zealand)

8 Adam Blair (New Zealand)

9 Cameron Smith (Australia)

10 James Graham (England)

11 David Fa'alogo (New Zealand)

12 Ashton Sims (Fiji)

13 Jeremy Smith (New Zealand)

Substitutes: Stanley Gene (PNG), Isaac Luke (New Zealand), Gareth Haggerty (Ireland), Kylie LeuLuai (Samoa).

Dave Hadfield

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
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

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?