World Cup second quarter-final: AUSTRALIA 62 UNITED STATES 0 at Racecourse Ground, Wrexham

By STEVE MASCORD
IF injury realistically presented a bigger hurdle at this World Cup than many of Australia’s opponents, then it is becoming an increasingly vengeful foe.
Two weeks after back rower Luke Lewis’ tournament ended in a collision with an advertising hoarding, fullback Billy Slater’s recent off-field misfortune following him onto the Racecourse Ground for the 62-0 quarter-final whipping of the United States.
Slater, who was detained without charge by Manchester Police after a dispute outside a nightclub last week, finds himself in the hands of another branch of the emergency services after suffering an injury relating to the absence of posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee a minute into the second half.
“It’s an old injury – he’s got no PCL so he can’t hurt it,” said the Australia coach, Tim Sheens.
“But damage may have been done to the cartilage and other things. He’s gone for scans.
“We haven’t given up hope that he may be possibly available – if not this week after that sort of knock, then the next week if we get get that far.”
It’s a measure of Australia’s depth, however, that the man who replaced Slater in the custodian role yesterday – Greg Inglis – was considered by opposition coach Terry Matterson a more dangerous prospect there than in the centres.
Slater may have been the offical player of the 2008 World Cup but the prospect of facing Inglis wearing the number one will not exacly fill Australia’s opponents with glee.
By almost any measure, Sheens’ side was ruthless in Wrexham. It ran in 12 tries, with centre Jarryd Hayne and winger Brett Morris each equalling the Australian record for a full international with four.
Hayne’s selection in the centres is something of a leap of faith for Sheens, and it paid off spectacularly. One of the three men he kept out – Michael Jennings, Josh Morris and Brent Tate – will now be called up as a replacement for Slater in a reshuffled backline.
If ever there was a team in less need of luck, it was Australia playing the United States in rugby league.
Nonetheless, the green and golds’ kick-off to start the mismatch rebounded off the wordwork and into the arms of loose forward Paul Gallen.
The Tomahawks initially held them out, but it was only two minutes before Hayne scored his side’s opening try.
There were positive moments for the American initially. By the time 19 minutes had elapsed, the score was only 10-0 and stand-off Joseph Paulo has been unfortunate not to have scored after charging down a clearing kick.
But Morris equalled his country’s try-scoring record in a full international by halftime. His hat-trick was registered in just 14 minutes.
The World Cup favourites showed no favouritism when it came to their route to the tryline. There were sweeping backline movements, pin-point kicks and soft walk-ins.
They didn’t try to find the easy way to points but nor did they display the previous week’s stubborn insistance on talking the hard road.
Parramatta’s Hayne could scarcely have done more to justify Sheens’ vote of confidence, with the extra work required of a centre preventing him from zoning out of a contest, as he can sometimes do.
Hayne started and ended the scoring spree; the score could have been uglier had Johnathan Thurston kicked more than seven from 12.
Sheens took particular pride in his men having kept their tryline intact.
“I think we’ve the best defensive record in the competitiom at the moment,” he said.
“We had our pants pulled down early by England and we were determined that won’t happen again so we’ve worked hard on that aspect.”
Matterson said he was relieved the game was over and proud of his previously unheralded charges despite the margin.
“We won’t dwell too much on what happened today,” he said. “It’s an experience. What we’ve done over the past four weeks has been special.
“It’s a group of people I wil always remember and we’ll always have a very strong bond.”
Tomahawks captain Joseph Paulo said the tournament had given him the confidence to speak more on the field and become a more dominant player with his club, Parramatta.

AUSTRALIA 62 (Jarryd Hayne 4, Brett Morris 4, Greg Inglis 2, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk tries; Johnathan Thurston 7 goals) beat UNITED STATES 0 at Racecourse Ground, Wrexham. Referee: Henry Perenara (New Zealand). Crowd: 9762

Filed for THE OBSERVER

World Cup: AUSTRALIA 34 FIJI 2 at Langtree Park

By STEVE MASCORD

AUSTRALIA second rower Luke Lewis, one of rugby league’s most durably and decorated forwards, suffered a dislocated shoulder colliding with an advertising hoarding as the World Cup favourites wore down Fiji.

Defenders showed immediate concern for the Cronulla Sharks star after he chased a kick with 15 minutes left in the 34-2 win at St Helens’ Langtree Park last nighrt and went down after using an arm to protect himself as he slid over the dead ball line.

amazonPlay was stopped for around three minutes; a stretcher was called but Lewis walked off the pitch with the aid of trainers. More information was expected today regarding his condition.

It says volumes for the confidence of Australia at this World Cup that while England refuses to guarantee every player a game, the green-and-golds can be magnanimous and devastating at the same time.

Tim Sheens’ side that took on Fiji in monsoon-like conditions t featured Daly Cherry Evans, understudy to Cooper Cronk, at scrum-half and Greg Inglis in his club position of fullback.

Fiji, playing muscular, pragmatic football rather than the ebilient style we have come to appreciate with their rugby teams, tested the tournament favourites amid the winds and icy rain.

But stand-off Johnathan Thurston made light of the contrast in conditions between St Helens and Townsville with a puppeteer-like performance as the Australians gradually wore down a side made up largely of fellow NRL players.

Centre Josh Morris had an early try disallowed and the Bati attracted a hearty cheer by managing to be first on the scoresheet, with Alipate Noilea’s penalty goal at seven minutes.

Manly’s Cherry-Evans had played a key role in that near-miss and he laid on debutante Josh Papalii’s 14th-minute touchdown.

donate2South Sydney’s Inglis did his best King Kong impersonation seven minutes later, swatting defenders near the Fiji lin before flicking to Luke Lewis who in turn served up winger Darius Boyd with Australia’s second try.

Centre Michael Jennings was no slowed by the sodden pitch as he accelerated away after leadup from Inglis on the half hour and the Australians led by a comfortable – but from the Bati’s persepective, respectable – 16-2 margin at the break.

After halftime, Australia ploughed relentlessly through the bleak Merseyside night while Fiji did go close to scoring once or twice.

Cherry Evans finished off a long-range movement to cross between the posts at 56 minutea and second rower Lewis stepped neatly past the cover to dot down himself with 15 minutes left.

But Fiji showed enough to indicate that if conditions are similarly cynclonic in Hull on Saturday night – and why wouldn’t they be – they have the structure and power to worry England.


Filed for: THE OBSERVER

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