As dawn broke on another sunny Brisbane day, judgement day had finally arrived. After twenty-seven group and knockout games the best two sides in the World, Australia and England, would meet at the Suncorp Stadium to decide the World Champions.
The bookies and the pundits gave England slightly less chance than that of a ‘snowball in hell’ and with considerable disruption to the side through the loss of skipper Sean O’Loughlin and hooker Josh Hodgson, Wayne Bennett knew his side would need to play not only their game of the tournament, but that of their lives, to win the ultimate prize.
The question on everyone’s lips was whether England would roar like lions or go like lambs to the slaughter.
A ball steal by James Roby on eleven gifted the Kangaroos possession and Australia used it to build real pressure on the England line. On thirteen Michael Morgan fed Boyd Cordner to crash over the line. Cameron Smith added the extras and despite a good start for England the Australians had taken the first real opportunity for a 6-0 lead.
England had their first opportunity on twenty-two but Jermaine McGillvary lost possession five out from the line.
It was becoming a war of attrition with England giving as good as they were getting. An England penalty twenty from the line was tapped but on the second tackle John Bateman lost the ball as the Australian defence were stretched.
Just after an attempted Cooper Cronk drop goal, the half time hooter sounded with the teams separated by just the solitary try of the game, and both sides were keen for the interval and the rest.
On forty-five a McGillvary tap intercept saw him make it to the half way line but England couldn’t use the possession and position to challenge the line. Minutes later Australia had a try turned down for an obstruction, and England breathed a collective sigh of relief.
On fifty-four, after a penalty for offside, England had six tackles on the Australia line but again couldn’t find a way over.
England forced a sixty-fifth minute drop out after a superb Kallum Watkins break almost saw him clear to the line before he got ankle tapped by Josh Dugan and went to ground.
For the last twenty England looked the better side, but Australia fronted up in defence and managed to keep the Wall of White at bay. England had the pressure, and the chances, but just couldn’t break the line.
This was a titanic battle and Australia knew that they were in a real tussle for the full eighty minutes. Both sides ground themselves to a standstill as they threw everything that they had into the game. England were the better side for long periods and probably should have won the game. A handful of mistakes in the Australia twenty broke England hearts and the Kangaroos are once again crowned as World Champions.
So near, and yet so far. It will be a heartbreaking next few days in the England camp as they realise how close they came to a famous win.