It was just over ten years ago that English hearts were full of pride,joy and emotion as that famous drop kick from Jonny Wilkinson flew like a dart aiming for the bullseye to give the England RU team that wonderful 20-17 over Australia in their own back yard, for the first time since 1966 England were World Cup winners.
A lot has happened since then,England’s football team has been to many good tournaments only to fall short on too many occasions without showing much fight it is sad to say while the RU side went to defend their World Cup crown before losing to South Africa 15-6 in the 2007 final then in 2011 being demolished 19-12 by France in the Quarters.
Today though it was a change of codes as the 2013 Rugby League World Cup came to its glorious conclusion at the Theatre of Dreams that is Old Trafford,home of the twenty times league champions Manchester United for a final that brought fans of rugby league and sports fans in general to this great stadium, the biggest stadium for a football league club in the UK to host a tournament that has excelled better than the organisers could have ever hoped for.
Unlike World Cups in football and rugby union the RLWC was taken to traditional rugby league outposts such as Leigh,Wigan,St Helens and Workington while other games took place in what could be deemed as not so RL locations like Bristol and Neath where they are predominantly RU but the crowds still flocked to appreciate this event.
Being the first worldwide event to be held in this country since London 2012 was always going to be tricky but the people in charge of RLWC2013 can hold their head held high as crowd records were broken and a new found respect for rugby league was born.
All tournaments must end and so it was at Old Trafford that New Zealand and Australia faced off to decide who would pick up the trophy after 80 minutes of brutal,hard work and at times torturous sport for the right to become champions.
On to the match then,after local lad Russell Watson (no relation) sang both of the respective anthems and the New Zealand team did their Haka it was down to what the previous five weeks had all come down to as 74,468 people roared on the battle of the Southern Hemisphere giants in this cauldron of rugby league.
The early stages were quite fraught with both teams sounding each other out, plenty of tough and heavy tackles as they lay down their markers until Australia went 2-0 from a Johnathan Thurston penalty on 5mins which soon got cancelled out by a New Zealand penalty on 16mins after Australia’s Cameron Smith did a high it on a NZ attack to make it 2-2.
Just three minutes later though Australia scored the first try from full back Billy Slater who is more the size of a flat jockey lept up in the air after a high kick on the fifth tackle to reach it like a man possessed to ground the ball which was duly converted by Thurston to make it 8-2 to the Aussies as the game approached the mid way point of the first half, just a few minutes later Australia had a disallowed try before going over on 31 mins from Cooper Cronk which again Thurston converted before adding a penalty moments later.
Half Time,New Zealand 2 Australia 16.
The final forty minutes began and to be fair only side was in it and that was Australia, straight from kick off Billy Slater added his second of the game after excellent running from Thurston and winger Darius Boyd to slip in Slater, again it was sent through the posts by with a brilliant conversion that slowly turned as it took dead aim towards the sticks.
Just ten minutes later Australia went over again but at the same time fell foul of the high pitch inside Old Trafford, a mixture of light kicking and tapping the ball resulted in Brett Morris grounding the ball before following through and disappearing off the pitch and sliding down hitting the advertising boards, a quick check from the video referee gave the Try and again Thurston converted the extra two.
More points came all for Australia as expected,New Zealand to their credit battled on but the Australian defence held tighter as if the they holding off Bailiffs trying to take their entire supply of many various Australian based beers!
The final points came on 72 minutes as Australia intercepted a pass from New Zealand’s ace Sonny Bill Williams, a winner in the Union World Cup back in 2011, was stolen by centre Jarryd Hayne who sprinted 50 metres quicker than Usain Bolt down the Old Trafford turf before off loading to Brett Morris and he grounded easily for that man again Johanthan Thurston to easily put the boot in.
Full Time, New Zealand 2 Australia 34.
In all fairness this was an easy win for Australia, it seemed as if New Zealand left their game behind at Wembley last weekend against England, they never seemed to get going but take it nothing from Australia they gave a master class in how to win a game, always in control it was only going one way and they are the winners of the RLWC 2013.
Normally World Cup finals can be dull and boring, take the USA 94 one in football between Brazil and Italy, my god that was an appalling affair but this was all you could ask for, proper attacking and tough tackles, no rolling over like a spoilt child just getting up and carrying on as if nothing happened, I think the people in suits at FIFA should look at this event and see how it should be done.
As for the occasion itself it may not have the worldwide appeal of that long drawn out affair the Superbowl which seems to last longer than a Lord of The Rings movie, this match infact both of the ones that I attended all ran seamlessly even with the referrals to the video referees, I think Fatboy Slim must have made a shedload of money from the royalties!
For me this was a grand event to see and the organisers of the. tournament should be proud of what has been achieved, Rugby League is often seen as a predominantly northern based sport but the public have taken this to their hearts and supported it with the respect it deserves.
Below, The Haka before the kick off.
Below, Another Johnathan Thurston conversion goes over.
Below, The greatest football team all lit up!
Below, It’s all fireworks as the trophy is picked up.
Below,Runners up New Zealand applaud the crowd.