Australia has quelled England’s challenge, knocking the hosts out of the Four Nations via a 36-18 win in a fiery contest at London’s Olympic Stadium.
Needing a draw or a win to eliminate New Zealand and advance to a final rematch with the Kangaroos, Wayne Bennett’s English outfit started promisingly and led 6-2 after powerhouse winger Jermaine McGilivary’s 26th-minute try.
But basic errors thwarted the home side – Gareth Widdop and Josh Hodgson both missed touch from penalties during the first half – and Australia hit the front when Darius Boyd put Blake Ferguson over four minutes out from the break.
A long-range penalty goal from Johnathan Thurston on halftime edged the Kangaroos out to a 10-6 lead, and England’s backs were against the wall midway through the second stanza after Greg Inglis and Matt Scott barged their way over for tries.
Josh Dugan backed up a Cooper Cronk break to effectively put the game out of reach at 28-6 at the hour mark.
Widdop reached out to give England a faint sniff with 12 minutes left, but Matt Gillett replied soon afterwards, which provoked a feisty confrontation that saw Sam Burgess split David Klemmer open with a punch.
Veteran winger Ryan Hall picked up a consolation effort for England in the 76th minute, but Australia had the final say as Valentine Holmes produced a trademark acrobatic finish in the dying stages.
The Kiwis – held to a shock draw by Scotland in Workington – breathed a sigh of relief, with the Kangaroos’ win clinching their place in next week’s decider at Anfield.
The result extended Australia’s unbeaten run against the Poms to 10 years, winning nine straight Tests against England.
In a consummate team performance, Aaron Woods (172 metres and 33 tackles), Boyd Cordner (166 metres and 28 tackles), Klemmer (208 metres and 21 tackles), Ferguson (194 metres and one line-break), Inglis (142 metres and one line-break), Gillett (79 metres, 30 tackles, one line-break and one try-assist) and Cronk (one line-break and one try-assist) were the standouts.
For England there were few better than fullback Jonny Lomax (165 metres, eight tackles and one try-assist), centre Kallum Watkins (116 metres and 18 tackles), second-rower John Bateman (107 metres and 36 tackles) and lock Burgess (132 metres and 46 tackles), but they ultimately lacked the poise and polish to end their drought against the world champs.