Wed, Dec 6, 9:43am by Staff Writer
The 2017 Rugby League World Cup ended on Saturday night, with arguably one the best games of the tournament. Australia sealed back to back World Cup victories, after defeating age old rivals England. Whilst the Kangaroos will go down in the record books as the tournament winners, this World Cup will be remembered for so much more.
The emergence of the Pacific nations was the story of the tournament. Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea set the competition alight from the Pool stages all the way through to Tonga’s Semi-Final loss. Wins over New Zealand for both Tonga and Fiji could signal the end of the dominance of the top 3 sides in rugby league. The Pacific nations will need to be exposed to more high standard Test matches in the coming years before the next World Cup though, if they are to improve on this year’s performance.
New Zealand were the shock team of the tournament for all the wrong reasons. Their final Pool match against Tonga had been earmarked as a firecracker after Jason Taumalolo’s late switch of allegiance. The Kiwis loss to Tonga was compounded a week later as they failed to break down a Fijian side looking for a first win over a tier 1 nation. Despite being joint favourites to win the World Cup, at $8, heading into the tournament. They failed to get past the Quarter Finals in what is a huge dent to the pride of Kiwi rugby league.
Ahead of the World Cup, Tonga were seen as the best hopes outside of the usual front runners. They eventually lost out to England in the Semi Finals. Denied by a contentious last minute possible try for Andrew Fifita. Priced at $21 before the tournament, they excelled throughout and pushed the top sides all the way.
Despite the dramas of the Quarters and Semis, the Final came down to two stalwarts of rugby league. England reached their first World Cup Final in 22 years, whilst Australia continued their dominance to put themselves in with a chance of winning their 11th World Cup.
Heading into the match, England were up against the odds as they had only ever beaten Australia twice in the past. Priced at $7 not many pundits would have given England any hope of beating the Kangaroos. Indeed, a big win of 13+ points was the favourite margin for Australia at $1.57. therefore, it will have come as a shock that England pushed the Kangaroos all the way to the 80th minute.
A solitary Boyd Cordner try and Cameron Smith conversion was all that could separate the two sides on the night. A thrilling match played at Origin level speed, was enthralling throughout despite the lack of scores with both defensive units standing strong. It was a typically brutal encounter between two historic rivals, that produced a match worthy of this compelling tournament.
Australia celebrated another World Cup victory, but this competition has raised questions of what can be done to give their rivals more opportunities. International rugby league could well be set for a shake up before the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in the UK.
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