40,042 Rugby League fans were treated to an outstanding Four Nations final played by two of Rugby Leagues greatest teams – Australia, the current World Champions and New Zealand, the Worlds Number 1 team.
Much more was on offer than just the Four Nations trophy, but also bragging rights between two of the biggest rugby nations. Anfield itself already being synonymous with a derby of its own between Liverpool and Everton. Yet for the respective teams, their routes to the final told two different stories.
Australia played 3 and won all 3; v England (36-18), v Scotland (54-12) and v New Zealand (14-8). All 3 of them showing a team riding high with confidence playing for a coach Mal Maninga, who has now led them to a 6 game winning streak with the victory over New Zealand today. With regards to New Zealand though it was a different story.
The Kiwi’s won 1; v England (17-16), drawn 1; v Scotland (18-18) and lost 1; v Australia (8-14). This record didn’t show a team who were at this point number 1 in the world.
The final itself saw fans treated to an absolute masterclass in how to play Rugby League as the game turned into a scene from David v Goliath. The Australians were led by the evergreen Jonathan Thurston, always an absolute joy to watch, Darius Boyd, Man of the Match and Cooper Cronk, who was later named Man of the Tournament.
Australia started much quicker and found themselves 6-0 ahead by the 4th minute. This continued to be the story for the first half in which Australia ran in 3 more tries before half time to take a 24-0 lead into the break. The Aussies finishing with very few blemishes on their performance, only a few missed conversion attempts from Thurston himself which clearly didn’t matter, given the difference in scores.
New Zealand had found themselves on the ropes more than Mohammed Ali in ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, just this time there was no late turnaround. Australia ran out deserved winners with a score of 34-8 who dominated proceedings from the very start, leading in both metres made and carries.
Ultimately, the game was played by two nations who had rightly deserved their place in the final. However, the game was won by the Australians, avenging their defeat in the 2014 Four Nations Final where New Zealand triumphed over the Aussies 22-18.