MANCHESTER, England (AP) – Australia maintained its dominance at the Rugby League World Cup by beating Samoa 30-10 in the final at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Captain James Tedesco and center Latrell Mitchell each scored two of Australia’s six attempts to capture the 12th of a possible 16 world titles.
“Just the sign of a great football team that cares about each other and is really happy for the lads,” said Australia coach Mal Meninga.
Samoa made history by becoming the first Tier 2 nation to reach the final thanks to a thrilling semi-final win over England, and walking away in good standing without ever threatening another shock.
Having the patience and composure to deal with their opponents’ unorthodox play, the Kangaroos displayed their cool and ruthless side in attack to dominate the game. The Jillaroos secured an Australia double after beating New Zealand 54-4 in the early women’s final.
Toa Samoa had the support of Prime Minister Afioga Fiame Naomi Mataafa, who flew in especially for the occasion, and the overwhelming majority of the 67,502 spectators.
But the ultra-professional Australians ignored the boos and gradually earned the grudging praise of England fans as they drove to their third straight World Cup triumph.
The Kangaroos were battle-hardened after a hard-fought semi-final win over New Zealand, and the first half did not fare well for the Toa.
They were hit by two tries in four minutes. Mitchell fended off an attempted tackle from full-back Joseph Suaalii to open the scoring and a sharp break from dangerman Josh Addo-Carr led to Tedesco’s first try, which was converted by Nathan Cleary.
Samoa was 10-0 down and still in contention when Addo-Carr knocked down Stephen Crichton’s pass to winger Brian To’o and Chanel Harris-Tavita was held over the line.
But there was virtually no going back as second rower Liam Martin took the pass from hooker Harry Grant to put Australia through for a third try after 29 minutes.
“The first half was exceptional for us,” said Meninga. “We did everything we had to do and in the second half we fought well defensively, a man down and we scored some points in the process.”
Second rower Angus Crichton’s sin six minutes into the second half for a swinging arm that sent Harris-Tavita out of the game encouraged the crowd to increase their support for Samoa, but even down to 12 men the Kangaroos were closed good on the counter.
A typical steal from Cameron Munster put his side in the best position and Cleary got backup backer Cameron Murray to squeeze through a gap for their fourth try.
Cleary’s second goal made it 20-0 and the reigning champions had more attempts from Grant and a returning Crichton who was ruled out by video referee Chris Kendall before the crowd finally got something tangible to cheer on.
Mitchell left a big hole in Australia’s defense when he tried to intercept Jarome Luai’s pass and that gave To’o a straight run for the corner for Samoa’s first try.
Normal serve was quickly resumed after Man of the Match Tedesco sliced through Samoa’s defense of Munster’s inside ball for his second try.
“James Tedesco was our all-rounder,” said Meninga. “He led the team really well through the week, his speech and the way he trained was exceptional. He was there tonight and we needed him.”
Mitchell also went over for his second try and Samoa was rewarded for their perseverance when Stephen Crichton intercepted Ben Hunt’s pass and ran 40 yards for his second try.
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