Australia retains Rugby League World Cup after holding off spirited Samoa | Rugby League World Cup 2021

There are many contenders to choose from in the annals of rugby league history, but this could well be the most dominant day in Australia’s long and illustrious history. No two Rugby League World Cups are the same in terms of the narratives, the storylines and the stories told.

They’re thrilling rollercoaster rides, and this year’s was no different. But mostly the last chapter is the same: and that was the case again at Old Trafford.

The statistics alone are frightening. Of the last 12 men’s World Cups, Australia has now won 11 of them. You’ve only conceded eight tries here throughout the tournament. Add to that the fact that the Jillaroos won their third straight World Cup earlier in the day with a 50-point win over New Zealand and there’s simply no sign of the green-and-gold dominance of rugby’s men’s and women’s disciplines -League at any time is about to end.

In the rest of the international game, there is an argument that Australian authorities need to show more willingness to host kangaroos games. Yes, the pandemic has slowed rugby league around the world, but the fact Australia hadn’t played a single Test since 2019 ahead of this World Cup underscores the apathy with which their hierarchy treats the international game. Whether this latest win changes that remains to be seen: but the world needs Australia to play more often in the years leading up to the next World Cup in 2025.

Perhaps the most humiliating thing here was that everything was so predictable. The story of Samoa, an island nation of just over 200,000 people, reaching the final for the first time captivated the rugby league world. But really, without getting into high gear, the kangaroos chewed that tale, spat it out, and sauntered off to another world title. There was no shortage of effort from Matt Parish, but the result was a typically familiar one.

“It’s fantastic,” said winning coach Mal Meninga. “The first half was exceptional and we did what we had to do. We fought well in the second half, one man down, but we still scored points. I wasn’t nervous, I have faith in this football team.”

Latrell Mitchell completes the scoring.
Latrell Mitchell completes the scoring. Photo: Ed Sykes/Action Images/Reuters

Leading 14-0 at halftime, the Kangaroos always felt they had Samoa at a distance. Samoa actually enjoyed more possession in the early rallies, but there was a feeling that the Kangaroos would make them pay if they didn’t make it. They duly complied when Latrell Mitchell pushed his way in before a break from Josh Addo-Carr five minutes later meant James Tedesco scored. Tedesco, the Australian captain who played for Italy at the last World Cup, made the game’s standout contribution here. “He was exceptional, absolutely pumped tonight,” Meninga said. “We needed him.” Liam Martin was next to cross for the Kangaroos to make it 14-0 at half-time and while Samoa had certainly struggled there was little doubt they had been outplayed at crucial moments.

But this proud nation can look back on an unforgettable tournament.

Hopefully they’ve created a legacy for more Australian-born players to get involved with Pacific nations and, in the long run, could help close the gap with the Kangaroos. It could be seen as a breakthrough for the sport in the years to come.

“It’s been a fantastic journey,” said her coach, Matt Parish. “I want to thank all Samoans around the world for supporting this team. The support we’ve received around the world has been incredible.”

However, his side was undone when it mattered here. Cameron Murray’s try, while Australia were reduced to 12 men, after an elbow from Angus Crichton on Channel Harris-Tavita that could easily have resulted in a red card, underscored the gap in quality. Samoa provided at least two special moments with attempts from Brian To’o and Stephen Crichton, the man who broke England’s hearts in last week’s semi-final.

But they were only comfort. Five minutes into To’o’s attempt, Tedesco cut through for his second before Mitchell did the same in the final moments.

The celebrations will take place all day, as we are used to now. Who can stop the kangaroos? For now, the answer seems to be nobody.


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