The countdown to the Rugby League World Cup is well and truly underway, and Throwback Thursday is getting the mood by reliving the 2000 final between Australia and New Zealand at Manchester United’s hallowed Old Trafford.
Struggling for cohesion after a disjointed build-up, New Zealand was taken to the cleaners 52-0 by a ruthless Australian side in the early-season Anzac Test. Australia ran nine tries past the woeful Kiwis outfit, while Mat Rogers scored a trans-Tasman record 24 points.
The Kiwis’ preparation for the year-ending World Cup appeared to be in tatters (sound familiar?), but coach Frank Endacott rallied his charges to give the tournament an almighty shake.
Led by inspirational captain and fullback Richie Barnett, the Kiwis swept aside their pool group opposition, crushing Lebanon 64-0, the Cook Islands 84-10 and Wales 58-18. France was next in the firing line, decimated 54-6 in the quarter-final stage, before host nation England was sent packing at the hands of the ruthless New Zealanders in the semi-final by a humiliating 49-6 scoreline.
New Zealand approached the final at Old Trafford with confidence after Australia was given a fright by Wales in the other semi-final, and the Kiwis pushed the star-studded defending champs all the way.
Australia led just 6-0 at halftime and 18-12 after 65 minutes.
But the individual brilliance of the Kangaroos came to the fore, running in four late tries for an emphatic 40-12 victory – a scoreline that flattered Australia and belied the Kiwis’ stoic effort.
Wendell Sailor finished with two of Australia’s seven tries, while Darren Lockyer, Nathan Hindmarsh, Matt Gidley, Trent Barrett and skipper Brad Fittler also found their way onto the scoresheet.
Tonie Carroll and Lesley Vainikolo crossed for New Zealand’s two four-pointers.
And while many regard the Kangaroos’ Test spine of recent years as the best ever, how’s this for a quartet: Lockyer, Fittler, Brett Kimmorley and Andrew Johns!
Meanwhile, the Kiwis have won four of the seven tournament finals they’ve contested against the Kangaroos since.
Watch extended highlights of the 2000 World Cup final HERE.