This is only the beginning – Mal Meninga predicts more to come from Australia
Mal Meninga predicted a new era of dominance from his all-conquering Kangaroos after Australia claimed their third straight Rugby League World Cup title with a 30-10 win over spirited Samoa at Old Trafford.
Six tries, including braces for Latrell Mitchell and James Tedesco, saw Meninga’s men enhance their status as one of the greatest sides in world sport, and the head coach warned: “This is only the beginning for this team.
“I can assure you that all these guys are going to be together for the next three, four, five, six years.
“If you go back to the 1970s we’ve got a 90 per cent winning record. It’s been a dominant time for an Australia team and I think we accept that really well as a group of players.
“The expectation is that we win tournaments so it’s not a burden to us, we carry that with great humility and respect. We understand that all but our most ardent supporters don’t want us to win, but we accept that and we get on with business.”
Meninga pointed out his side’s reaction to being temporarily reduced to 12 men early in the second half when Angus Crichton delivered a blow to Chanel Harris-Tavita that poleaxed the Samoan prop and ruled him out for the rest of the game.
Instead of inviting the gutsy Samoans back into the game, Australia responded by defying their numerical advantage and extending their lead through a Cameron Munster try before Crichton was cleared to return.
“We copped it and we handled it really well,” added Meninga, who in contrast to his Samoan counterpart Matt Parish, was adamant Crichton deserved to stay on the field.
“We handled it really well and that’s nearly our best 10 minutes of the game – defensively we were outstanding and just kept turning up for each other, and that’s the nature of this footy team.”
Samoa coach Matt Parish criticised referee Ashley Klein’s decision not to send off Crichton but acknowledged it did not play a part in the outcome against plainly superior opponents.
“We were probably never close enough to pressure them, but there was clearly a 40-20 in the first five minutes, and five minutes into the second half (Chanel Harris-Tavita) gets an elbow to the head and the referee makes a weak decision,” said Parish.
“The result is disappointing but certainly not the effort or commitment of these guys, and I couldn’t be prouder or happier with the group.”
Samoa captain Junior Paulo, who was cleared to play in the final after being put on report for a spear tackle on Tom Burgess in the semi-final win over England, paid tribute to the impact his squad has made on the sport in his homeland.
“We spoke during the week about giving ourselves every chance and that whatever happened we were always going to be able to hold our heads up and be proud and that’s all I wanted from this bunch of men,” said Paulo.
“The one thing that will stick with us is in history these names are always going to be beside each other and we will be able to look back when we’re done and be proud.”