IT has recently come to my attention there are people among us, who believe the Rugby League World Cup is a waste of time.
They proclaim, it’s a two horse race. They say, it’s too long. Some even go as far to say it’s cutting into The Ashes. really? The Ashes? Get a bigger trophy!
Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I’ve loved the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. From the very first kick off it’s been nothing but highlights, excitement and surprise packages.
In what is honestly the greatest game of Rugby League I have ever seen, (not including the 2010 NRL Grandfinal, GO DRAGONS!) and despite the last minute and heartbreaking 20-18 loss, which saw England fall just 20 seconds short of booking themselves a place in the World Cup final. We’ve seen the likes of Sinfield, Tomkins and Burgess lead the resurgence of England from a once upon a time team into genuine title contenders. Something they can build on and certainly feel proud of, despite their not so favouring exit. Honestly I felt almost dirty when I found myself, not just passively, but passionately cheering on our adopted country instead of our baby Kiwi brother.
As well as this, we have also seen our American friends pull off an almost Mighty Ducks, Emilio Estevez inspired Cinderella story with some great and somewhat unexpected wins.
And let’s not forget our mates and weekend combatants, the Fiji Bati, lead by Rugby League legend Petero Civoniceva. Boasting a rookie team, most of whom haven’t even tasted first grade football got through their pool stages to face the might of Australia in the Semi Final at Wembley.
So, for the nay-saying armchair coaches, getting updates from NRL apps; sorry you’ve missed it guys! It’s been one hell of a competition. And with the final coming up this weekend, it’s far from over. With the memories and scars from 2008 still burning in every Australian’s memory, this is our time for glory and redemption. The little brother can’t get everything.
On Saturday 23rd November, a strong Australian side defeated a rather spirited and passionate Fiji Bati outfit 64-0.
Despite the score line, Australia faced a rather worthy and what can only be described as classy opposition, who in face of their gruelling defeat, held their heads up high and were all the better for the run against one of the finest Australian teams. Honestly Fiji, can take a lot away from that game. You did your country very proud!
In front of a 67,545 vocal crowd, who were cheering for anyone that wasn’t Australian, this avalanche included a hat-trick of tries to new centre and former Fiji international Jarryd Hayne, which saw the Australians keep their opposition scoreless for the third straight match in a row. It cements Australia’s spot against New Zealand in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup at Old Trafford in Manchester next Saturday night.
Watching the two eventual World Cup finalists play back-to-back against their respective opposition was met with some interest and a slight bit of concern. The crowd and general Rugby League faithful got to see the difference between a Kiwi side pushed to their absolute limits and found themselves caught chasing a victory by a very courageous, strong and passionate English side, compared to the Australians, who despite Fiji’s best efforts, phoned in a victory and were not pushed beyond their means.
This “easy run” could prove to be detrimental, educational or an accidental master stroke depending on how Australia get out of the blocks next weekend in Manchester. But don’t be fooled. Our Kiwi mates will not give us an easy run.
As well as the hat-trick to Hayne, Australian winger Darius Boyd crossed for a double. However, the game was won up the middle with ‘man of the match’ Johnathan Thurston and half back Cooper Cronk running wild with an excellent combination with Captain Cameron Smith and fill-in fullback Greg Inglis setting up tries all over the park.
Leading 34-0 at half time, the match started fairly solid and even with Fiji holding Australia scoreless for 9 minutes with Thurston scoring one of the easiest tries of his career, it wasn’t long before Boyd crossed over for the first of his doubles with Cronk flying over soon after, receiving a great inside ball from Jarryd Hayne.
Not just putting people over, Hayne scored his first from a Greg Inglis set up before Josh Papalii soon after barged his way under the posts to be quickly followed by Hayne’s second try of the night, right as the half time buzzer sounded.
The second half of the match started off a bit slow and with a clear lack of urgency to it. Almost as if they were kicking in to auto pilot, the Australians were sluggish in attack and concentrating more on their defence, until James Tamou crossed in the 54th minute which was soon followed by Darius Boyd’s second try in almost as many minutes.
Continuing with the slow nature of the second half, it took almost 10 minutes before Hayne crossed over for his third try.
For what looked certain to be his fourth, Hayne unselfishly handed the ball off to a flying Brett Morris who put the points on the board and closed the game beyond any doubt.
Andrew Fafita crossed late in the game to close the deal and sadly that was all for Fiji and the illustrious career of gentle giant Captain Petro Civoniceva, who played 35 tests for Australia but still encompassed the passion and pride that came with the Fiji jumper.
The double header at Wembley left people with mixed feelings. Most rating the opening match between England and New Zealand a five star performance with the lacklustre effort between Australia and Fiji leaving people a bit sour and bored. However either way we’re primed for a very great and competitive match next Saturday night at Old Trafford to officially close off the 2013 Rugby League season and the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
In my opinion, this current Australian team with its skill and depth is the greatest team I have seen on the field since the years of Johns and Fittler.
With the likes of Inglis, Thurston and Hayne set to take on Johnson, Foran and Williams. Either way we look at things and despite who you support, this match couldn’t be much better if it was planned and scripted.
This is our last chance for some footy until February next year, so get up to Manchester and lets cheer our boys home!