Double Delight for Australia – Rugby League World Cup Finals

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2017 Rugby League Women's World Cup Final - Australia v New Zealand
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 02: Australia celebrates victory at the end of the 2017 Rugby League Women's World Cup Final between Australia and New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Both sides were successful, so it might be called ‘double delight’ for Australian league, after the 2017 Rugby League World Cup finals. The opening game, won by the women and the men followed up with victory for the Kangaroos–but it was a hard fought battle.

England, the Lionhearted challengers pushed Australia to the brink last night. Providing a barrier that was virtually unbreakable. So much so that it was the lowest RLWC final result in a generation. An ‘old school’ tussle, but fortunately a win for the hosts on home soil.

The women had to overcome a spirited encounter, with the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns showing plenty of fight, that it required a perfect start and drop goal to ensure the scoreline. It also showed the fortitude by the Jillaroos, to hold back the former-champions in the final offensive challenge.

Double Delight for Australia: Rugby League World Cup Finals

For all the excitement and build-up, the men’s grand final match would end up being a arm wrestle of colossal stature. Not the fast, high scoring outcome that promoters would have projected; but one that the traditionalists would have enjoyed.

And for a measure of the focus and attention that both teams placed on this game, the result would reinforce their commitment. The challenger certainly made sure that defence was a keyword–while the hosts might have expected to wear down the English team through their temerity and concentration of talent.

In that end, it came down more to heart, and possibly a stronger support for the first home teams’ win in recent years.

Grand Final: Australia 6 England 0

This match was a game of ‘stars v tough workers’. The Australians would use their depth of talent to go after the result, but to that end they were denied. Denied in space, time and denied the confidence.

After that early try to Boyd Cordner, some would have been waiting on a flood of points, but it never came. In fact, the barrier put up by England was interminable for some.

Like the All Blacks, the most talented sides can became ‘stuck in the mud’ when met with a concerted game plan. And it took more than flamboyance in 2017, to win this match.

Similar to a tightly contested Football World Cup final, the sides countered, halted, and even countered the other. England very nearly broke out only for a Josh Dugan or Billy Slater final tackle to deny them. It seemed cruel that England could not score, but these 2017 Rugby League World Cup finals were not going to play any favourites.

Victory at Last, After 80 Grueling Minutes

The final whistle was more relief than exultation for the Kangaroos. Cameron Smith and his men had lasted the full 80. They defended honestly, and that will please Mal Meninga.

Once the celebrations started, the ‘green and golds’ smiled and shook each others hand. No huge jumps for joy–more like elation that they outlasted, rather than complete satisfaction at another easy win.

Australian players celebrate victory as England players lay dejected during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup Final. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

However in front of the Suncorp Stadium crowd, Australia were crowned champions after denying England a title once again. And the winners were contented. Some will carry on in the squad, while long serving half Cooper Cronk spoke immediately of his retirement.

Others too may follow; Slater and possibly Smith, but the three NRL stars will cap off a terrific 12 months; Melbourne Storm Premiers and now World Champions.

After such a closely run match, the tough England team should be proud. They did not forsake their traditional strengths. James Graham and the Burgess brothers were fearless. They did not break a successful mold, and might very well have ‘made a match of it’ if given an inch.

Credit to Australia, they were on top of their game even after 80 grueling minutes.

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Women’s Rugby League Grand Final

The unbeaten teams of the women’s tournament; that had run alongside the men’s one, the Australian Jillaroos would face their fiercest foe. A Kiwi Ferns team that have been more successful in World Cups, so a team wishing to repair their own status.

And the Kiwis were confident. Scoring at will during the earlier matches, Honey Hireme scored two tries in this final, but it was not enough.

Australia 23 New Zealand 16

They appeared to have little to fear–aside from an opponent who was just as driven. The Aussie women (like the men) were determined not to fail their home fans. So if the motivating factor for both teams was on hand, it was a vocal support which lifted the local players.

And so it would prove so, even as the Kiwis fought back, the hosts were too strong on the night.

Australia Take Back Champion Status From Kiwis

Full credit must go to the Jillaroos, who had gone unbeaten in a series of warm-up tests against the the Kiwi women. Visiting New Zealand; and importantly winning offshore, before proving the point back in Brisbane. This showed that the ‘pendulum’ is back in Australia’s favour.

But no doubt, the Kiwi girls will soak in the misery, brush away the tears and look to focus on reversing the recent trend. And that trans-Tasman rivalry is strong – much stronger than the men’s team has had. If both the Kiwi Ferns, and the men’s side show marked improvement, then it will be good for the future of the sport.

Just the same applies to England rugby league. The Lion stood tallest at the RLWC2017, withstanding a Tongan threat and showing the heart required to play in a final. Whether their super-Coach Wayne Bennett remains or not, the Lion will be hard to keep down [when New Zealand tour the UK in late 2018].

The 2017 Rugby League Cup finals, and each of the tournaments have been successful. Plenty of great contests, and two worthy winners. In four years time, one would hope that the legacy of eligibility and player allegiance provides more benefit.

Bring on 2021!

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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