DCSIMG

Too big, too quick and too strong

IT is not all doom and gloom, but English rugby league finds itself in a familiar position today after yet another lesson at the hands of Australia.

The Kangaroos have been dominant for the best part of four decades and, despite some encouraging signs, England seem as far behind as ever.

The 46-16 scoreline in the Gillette Four Nations final, at Elland Road, certainly didn't reflect a spirited performance by the home team.

England led three times, were ahead as late as the 54th minute and only a converted try adrift with 13 to go.

But Australia's greater class eventually told, four late, unanswered tries leaving the hosts battered, bewildered and well-beaten.

It was tough on England, who gave their all. They scored some nice tries, muscled up and lacked nothing in terms of commitment or effort.

But while they have a handful of world class players, there were 17 in green and gold – plus others left at home.

Australia's strength in depth is far greater. Over here, the majority of the big, fast or strong athletes who are interested in playing rugby, don't opt for league.

Saturday's team was basically drawn from two counties. The game is beginning to grow in the south, London, the midlands and even the north east, but until those areas start to produce top-quality professional players, England will continue to lag behind at international level.

England can take heart from the performance of the rookies introduced this year. Halves Sam Tomkins and Kyle Eastmond, though swamped late on, have proved they can perform at the top level.

Winger Ryan Hall and centre Michael Shenton have great potential as a left-flank partnership and Sam Burgess, scorer of two tries in the final – though he will have nightmares about a missed chance at 6-0 ahead – is only 20 and will be a better player for his experience in Australia's NRL.

Good players are emerging, but not enough of them. And when they do come through, Super League clubs must give them a chance, rather than opt for Aussie or Kiwi imports.

Player burn-out is another issue. For key men like Leeds duo Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock, Saturday's game ended a season which began on February 1 – and they'll be back in competitive action in little more than two months' time.

Peacock did his usual solid job up front, but he is more effective now as a prop than a second-row, his starting position in the final.

Sinfield has underlined his world-class ability during this series, though the Aussies did a good job on him and too much tackling reduced his effectiveness on attack.

Hall was again starved of attacking chances and, like all the wide players, he was over-run late on, but Shenton had his best game of the tournament.

He had little opportunity with the ball, but was strong in defence, rocking Darren Lockyer with a big early hit and pulling off a try-saving tackle on man of the series Greg Inglis.

Shenton was knocked cold in a collision with Aussie prop Ben Hannant early in the second half, with the visitors just six points ahead.

The long delay seemed to have a negative impact on England.

As much as this was a depressing experience from an England point of view, it was impossible not to admire the performance of the world's most talented rugby team.

Aussie alves Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston, the man of the match, were sensational, full-back Billy Slater capped a wonderful performance with a hat-trick of tries and the three-quarters – led by Inglis – were unstoppable late on.

Leeds boss Brian McClennan could well face some sleepless nights over the next three months, pondering how to stop the Melbourne Storm trio of Slater, Inglis and hooker Cameron Smith, another outstanding performer, in the Carnegie World Club Challenge, at the same venue.

Burgess crossed in the 10th and 49th minutes, Sinfield converting both, with Peter Fox touching down on 20, each try edging England ahead, at 6-0, 10-6 and 16-14.

Brett Morris and Inglis scored Australia's first-half tries, Slater nosed them decisively ahead before crossing twice more late on and Morris, Smith and Hayne completed the rout, Thurston kicking six conversions and a penalty.

ENGLAND: Briscoe, Fox, Bridge, Shenton, Hall, Tomkins, Eastmond, Morley, Sinfield, Graham, Peacock, Ellis, Burgess. Subs Crabtree, Wilkin, Westwood, Roby.

AUSTRALIA: Slater, B Morris, Inglis, Hodges, Hayne, Lockyer, Thurston, Hannant, Smith, Civoniceva, Lewis, Gallen, Hindmarsh. Subs Gidley, White, Watmough, Thaiday.

REFEREE: Leon Williamson (New Zealand).

ATTENDANCE: 31,042. The long delay seemed to have a negative impact on England.

Unstoppable

As much as this was a depressing experience from an England point of view, it was impossible not to admire the performance of the world’s most talented rugby team.

Aussie alves Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston, the man of the match, were sensational, full-back Billy Slater capped a wonderful performance with a hat-trick of tries and the three-quarters – led by Inglis – were unstoppable late on.

Leeds boss Brian McClennan could well face some sleepless nights over the next three months, pondering how to stop the Melbourne Storm trio of Slater, Inglis and hooker Cameron Smith, another outstanding performer, in the Carnegie World Club Challenge, at the same venue.

Burgess crossed in the 10th and 49th minutes, Sinfield converting both, with Peter Fox touching down on 20, each try edging England ahead, at 6-0, 10-6 and 16-14.

Brett Morris and Inglis scored Australia’s first-half tries, Slater nosed them decisively ahead before crossing twice more late on and Morris, Smith and Hayne completed the rout, Thurston kicking six conversions and a penalty.

England: Briscoe, Fox, Bridge, Shenton, Hall, Tomkins, Eastmond, Morley, Sinfield, Graham, Peacock, Ellis, Burgess. Subs Crabtree, Wilkin, Westwood, Roby.

Australia: Slater, B Morris, Inglis, Hodges, Hayne, Lockyer, Thurston, Hannant, Smith, Civoniceva, Lewis, Gallen, Hindmarsh. Subs Gidley, White, Watmough, Thaiday.

Referee: Leon Williamson (New Zealand). Attendance: 31,042.

 
 
 

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