Australia crush New Zealand in Four Nations final

Chris Bailey
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Australia's scrum-half Cooper Cronk (right) is tackled by New Zealand's wing Jordan Rapana during their rugby league Four Nations Final match in Liverpool on November 20, 2016

Australia demolished New Zealand 34-8 in Sunday's Four Nations series final at Liverpool's Anfield stadium to avenge their loss to their regional rivals in the 2014 decider.

Josh Dugan scored two tries and Johnathan Thurston kicked three conversions and two penalties as Australia claimed their fourth victory over New Zealand in 2016.

It leaves Australia as world champions, Four Nations holders and the number one team in the world.

"It was a goal of ours to win the Four Nations, so that is a big plus for us," said Australia coach Mal Meninga.

"We have built as the games have progressed and that is a coach's dream.

"They're one of the best groups we've seen in international rugby league, so we're lucky in that sense, but you've still got to build a team and everybody did their job today."

Australia started as strong favourites, having won all three of their group-stage games, while New Zealand were held to a shock draw by rank outsiders Scotland. Hosts England were the other team.

New Zealand coach David Kidwell said: "We spoke at half-time about getting our completion rate up.

"I wish we'd done that in the first half, but there were encouraging signs that we can compete when we do that."

Blake Ferguson needed just three minutes to open the scoring for the Kangaroos and New Zealand crumbled thereafter.

Dugan followed over twice, either side of a Trent Merrin score, and with Thurston's kicking assured, Australia took in a 24-0 lead at the break.

Australia's pace slowed in the second half, despite Darius Boyd's try, as the game ambled to an inevitable conclusion.

To their credit, the Kiwis regrouped through a Jordan Kahu double, but Boyd Cordner had the last say for the victors.

- Boyd barrels through -

As well as a third Four Nations title in seven years, Australia had eyes on the Kiwis' number one world ranking.

In front of Anfield's famed Kop in the first half, Australia looked every bit the world's best.

Following a first-minute scrum beneath the posts, Meninga's side seized the initiative with Ferguson going over, unchallenged, on the right flank.

Thurston, in his last appearance on English soil in a Kangaroos jersey, added the conversion.

On the quarter-hour, centre Dugan burst through a beleaguered New Zealand rearguard after taking Boyd's pass to stretch the Australian advantage.

Despite missing the resulting conversion Thurston soon tapped over an easy penalty to put the Aussies 12 points in front before the first quarter was up.

They went over again almost immediately after, Merrin this time taking advantage after New Zealand had cheaply given up possession.

Australia showed no signs of relenting. Thurston slotted another simple penalty before the 33-year-old's deft kick set up Dugan's second.

Thurston hit the post with his kick, but it was hardly a blemish in a first half that ended with Australia a mammoth 24 points to the good.

A promising New Zealand start to the second half came to a halt through another sloppy penalty before Australia flyer Boyd, spotting a sliver of space, barrelled through and over the try-line.

Some of the loudest cheers of the afternoon were reserved for Kahu in the 57th minute as Kevin Proctor's smart offload released the full-back for New Zealand's first score.

Jason Taumalolo then crashed past two defenders and the ball made its way to Kahu again to touch down over the whitewash, but Cordner took on Thurston's pass to add more Australian gloss.