Australia defeated New Zealand 34-2 in front of a record international rugby league crowd at Old Trafford to lift the World Cup for the tenth time.
The Kangaroos delivered a rugby league master class against New Zealand at Old Trafford to claim a 10th World Cup title and ease the pain of their 2008 failure.
Australia came close to perfection in a 34-2 demolition played in front of a record international crowd of 74,468 in Manchester on Saturday.
Tim Sheens’ side score five tries and did not concede one for a fifth straight game as Australia avenged the Kiwis’ shock win in the 2008 decider in Brisbane.
In capturing a first World Cup title in 13 years, Australia’s triumph ensured a host of rugby league greats crowned their careers with an achievement that had so far eluded them.
And it was Australia’s biggest stars who shone brightest.
Five-eighth Johnathan Thurston collected his fourth man-of-the-match award of the tournament while fullback Billy Slater capped a remarkable return from injury with a brilliant two-try performance.
Winger Brett Morris also had a double while Jarryd Hayne’s freakish skills were again on display and skipper Cameron Smith, Paul Gallen and Matt Scott led the charge.
Smith said he could not recall playing in a better Australian victory and admitted the painful memories of 2008 had spurred his side.
“I made the comment on the field that I can’t remember the last time I played in such a complete game for an Australian side,” Smith said.
“We have been preparing for this for the last four weeks. We have played simple and tough footy.
“I may have told a little white lie in the build-up when I said this didn’t mean too much from 2008.
“But standing out on the field after the match I think a little bit of the disappointment from 2008 was erased.”
New Zealand’s newly-crowned world player of the year Sonny Bill Williams tried hard but was kept relatively quiet as the Kangaroos kept an incredible defensive record intact.
They finished the tournament having gone almost seven straight hours without conceding a four-pointer and the side is drawing comparisons with some of the great Australian teams of eras gone by.
Sheens said it was clearly the best performance of his tenure.
“The seniority in the team really stood up,” he said.
The Kiwis suffered a huge blow early with in-form winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck lasting only seven minutes before he hobbled off with the leg problem that had him in doubt for most of the week.
The Sydney Roosters winger will have scans on Saturday over a suspected hairline fracture.
Australia suffered a scare early when Hayne copped a heavy knock but he rebounded to be one of the Kangaroos’ best.
Slater, whose horror pass in the 2008 decider helped the Kiwis claim a famous win, returned just two weeks after hurting his troublesome knee and he scored the opening try in the 19th minute.
The Melbourne Storm star latched on to a brilliant Thurston kick and scored next to the posts before celebrating passionately.
“I couldn’t walk a week ago … to get out there and perform the way we did was very special,” Slater said.
The Kangaroos looked to have scored with another spectacular play in the 26th minute after Cooper Cronk collected an incredible in-field kick from Hayne.
But video referee Ashley Klein controversially ruled no try, ruling Andrew Fifita had made illegal late contact with Issac Luke.
Cronk wouldn’t have wait long for his try though, crossing again in the 30th minute following a Darius Boyd grubber kick.
Thurston converted the try to break Mick Cronin’s 31-year-old of 309 points for the Kangaroos and Australia took a 16-2 lead into the break.
Slater’s dream night continued just moments after halftime when he crossed out wide.
Morris finished off some outstanding work from Hayne but there was a scare when he collided heavily with an advertising sign behind the short in-goal area.
He played on though and secured a brace in the 72nd minute, with Hayne again the creator.
“I just think Australia’s performance today was nothing short of outstanding,” Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney said.
“They gave us a real lesson.
Greg Inglis came off late in the game with a thumb injury but the South Sydney star hoped it was just minor ligament damage.