Almanac Rugby League – Race for the Paul Barriere: Week 6, Australian double as England go close in classic men’s final



The latest edition of the Rugby League World Cup was hosted in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea with the women’s event taking place in Sydney before the final was played in Brisbane in conjunction with the men’s decider. Come Saturday night in the Queensland capital Australia had defended both the titles they won in England in 2013 as the Jillaroos beat the Kiwi Ferns by seven points 23-16 before the Kangaroos edged England 6-0 to retain the Paul Barriere Trophy.


Saturday night’s tournament denouement saw a compelling final decided by Australian back-rowers Boyd Cordner’s 14th minute try and the resultant conversion from skipper Cameron Smith. Australia missed chances in each half with star fullback Billy Slater among those to go close to scoring but England will rue their own inability to create many chances with Wayne Bennett’s side looking most likely to score from long-range. The difference between the two sides was the lack of impact from England’s halves Kevin Brown and Luke Gale on the rare occasions they reached the Australia ‘red zone’ (final 20 metres.)


England were not helped by a litany of errors, 12 in total, but this only added to the drama which managed to live up to the expectations set by the earlier group stage contests and gripping matches played in the knockout stage to date. England were able to blunt some of Australia’s attack on kick return by kicking most of the night towards the wing of Dane Gagai (25 runs for 238 metres.) Gagai is a talented player but has not been in the form of the other Australia winger Valentine Holmes at this tournament nor does the future Souths players have the experience of fullback Billy Slater. This managed to blunt some of the Australian attack early in their sets.


Try-scorer Cordner was a standout for the home side with 160 metres from 16 runs the most of any forward in the match and he played all the game bar eight minutes. England’s Chris Hill, playing on 42 minutes of the match ran for 131 metres, a team-best among their forwards, from his 11 runs. Aside from the lack of direction from their halves England appeared to miss the injured Josh Hodgson with James Roby starting the fixture at number nine. A fit Hodgson with Roby coming off the bench running and tired Australia forwards may have generate the crucial extra line-break England needed to cross the Australian line. The final result meant Australian coach Mal Meninga remains unbeaten in the role (13-0) and becomes the first person to captain and coach their nation to a World Cup final win.


In the women’s decider the match was, like the later men’s game, delicately poised at the break 12-10 in favour of Australia. Jillaroos halfback Caitlin Moran, who jinked over in the opened stanza for a four-pointer, was a key player in the game but also let the Kiwis back into the contest in the final stages. Up 22-10 and Australia looked to be in control when Moran rushed up out of the line on the right edge and the Kiwis shifted the ball wide for Raecene McGregor to score 12 minutes from time. The fact New Zealand, who conceded four penalties in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, were some hope of winning shows how much Tony Benson’s side has improved. North Newcastle’s Moran redeemed her earlier error to slot the match-sealing field goal in the final seconds as the Jillaroos retained their crown.


The World Cup returns to England in 2021 with North America set to host the 2025 edition. With the Toronto Wolfpack possibly heading to the Superleague in 2019 should they win promotion from the second tier next season, more dedicated dates for international rugby league fixtures and growing interest in establishing women’s competitions the next two events have scope for expansion with more international interest in the game. The women’s event this year had six teams so could be expanded but work needs to be done on the relevant pathway. As Jillaroos coach Brad Donald noted when speaking to Steve Mascord the NRL was still trying to ‘figure out what the talent pool is like’ indicating a staged process of installing a competition with all 16 NRL sides immediately implementing women’s teams unsustainable in terms of quality and player development. In the men’s game the focus will likely be on not just more games in the coming few years but which players turn out for which sides. Whether tier two nations continue to enjoy good luck in adding players eligible for tier one sides to their line-ups may come down to whether a financially sustainable model can be implemented for not just tournaments but tests played in the intervening period. Stay tuned for more cracking international rugby league in 2019.


This rugby league wrap first appeared on From the sideline of sport


About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his 'spare time' (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.


  1. Kia Ora Hamish.

    We watched the men’s final. For a low scoring encounter it was certainly a thriller. England dropping, fumbling, the ball after four or five tackles ,when close to home cost them. then again the second Australian try being disallowed because of Cameron Smith obstructing an opponent had me a tad perplexed.

    I’ve never had a great knowledge of the rules. Apart from the six tackles i thought there were no rules. I now,sort of, know differently. I need to expand my knowledge.


  2. Thanks for interacting during the tournament Glen. I’m glad you’ve developed your knowledge and enthusiasm for RL over the last month or so. The next men’s one will, apparantley, expand to 16 teams with expanded playoffs to qualify which should boost the interest.
    As for the complexities of the rules, like any sport even two people viewing the same replay on an obstruction can have a different view.

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