So near yet so far, Another false climax as Australia take Four Nations

Liam Conway

England 8 – 30 Australia

It seems like a nightmare that keeps happening over and over again but each time one believes that it might be finally coming to an end. Going into the Four Nations final many allowed themselves to get slightly carried away in thinking that England may be victorious against the might of Australia. It was not meant to be, despite an extremely positive tournament for England including a fantastic victory over New Zealand the Wallabies remain a distance ahead on the international scene. England’s performance was disappointing given how much they’d shown throughout the tournament but one must acknowledge the sheer amount of pressure that accompanies this fixture.

England and Great Britain haven’t won a competition involving Australia for over 39 years. During that period the Wallabies domination has been immense, quite frankly it isn’t just psychological, it is a case of them being a far superior outfit in every department. Not to take anything away from England’s effort and performance during this year’s Four Nations, it was far better than previous defeats which have ranged from the very competitive to the downright embarrassing. Coach Steve McNamara is right to take positives away from it and to note the emerging talent coming through the ranks, if only the other code would stop luring away some of our best talent we might get a squad of regulars! The game also saw the curtain fall down on the career of Darren Lockyer. Lockyer retired on the night after a sterling career going back to the nineties; I remember watching him emerge through the Brisbane, Queensland and the Australian sides during that period, an incredible player who has achieved legendary status all over the globe.

The crowd were at least treated to seeing Lockyer score a try and bizarrely miss a routine conversion The match started with an Australian onslaught quick to take the initiative, a solid defence and immense speed in chasing the ball down from kicks. It was through this that they gained their first try after Sam Thaiday went over after Jharal Yow Yeh beat Sam Briscoe to the ball. England were lucky not to concede another try from a kick after Sam Tomkins uncharacteristically dropped the ball but was saved by referee Ian Smith who ruled Chris Lawrence’s try offside.

England took advantage and a period before half time resulted in their best spell of the match culminating in a penalty try being given England’s way. Ryan Hall was about to convert a great move in the corner when Jonathan Thurston dove at him and clasped his hands round Hall’s neck. Hall unsurprisingly dropped the ball and after countless replays the video referee awarded England a penalty try. 6-6 going into half time all was seemingly to play for. It would be ironic that Thurston who was perhaps a little lucky to stay on the pitch would play such a major role in crushing England’s hopes. After a pentalty each the scores were level at 8-8 when that man Lockyer broke through and set up Yow Yeh and effectively gave Australia the edge they needed. Soon after Greg Inglis and Thurston scored and Lockyer went over in the final minute to provide a fitting end to a marvellous career.

Australia are at times breathtaking to watch with some top calibre players but this is little consolation for those England fans who will feel slightly disappointed at the performance. England have played well throughout the tournament and can take some heart from defeating a decent New Zealand side but it is Australia who maintains their grip on the international scene and the trophies that accompany it. Surely this can’t last forever?

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