After a month long tournament, we arrive at the second of 3 games that really matter, the final.
The dream rematch from the 2008 World Cup final that saw the Kiwis upset the heavily favoured home side has eventuated and people across the Tasman are gearing up to stay up to watch the top 2 teams in the world.
Arguably the game of the tournament (no argument, unless tonight’s game is an absolute blinder) was the semi-final match between New Zealand and England, which as we all know went down to the last minute, whilst the Roos put 60 on the hapless Fijians.
I admit I have enjoyed the cup to this point. Not so much the 60-0 semi-final flogging but the clashes between the lesser nations have been great fun. Samoa, Fiji and Tonga especially put together some great performances, and even the likes of Scotland and the USA left fans entertained … but in the fair dinkum stakes, there was only ever going to be an Australia vs. New Zealand/England final after the first game’s result.
There will be little argument over who enters the game as the favourite and the Roos deserve said favouritism, but I don’t believe the difference in the side is all that large. The emergence of RTS on the wing and of course the form of SBW in the back row means the Kiwis have 2 more genuine game breakers to add to their stocks.
Straight up, I believe the Aussies will win and probably do so in fairly comfortable fashion, but not without an almighty scare first. For mine New Zealand will come out with more aggression. The haka seems to fire up the NZ’ers and the big forward pack may get on top early, but I fully expect the class of the Aussie halves to be the difference.
Across the park there are mouth-watering battles but none more so in the battle of the 6’s and 7’s. Current Dally M medallist Cooper Cronk has fought off the challenge of superstar DCE to hold onto his starting spot, whilst Jonathan Thurston has arguably been the player of the tournament. For the Kiwis Johnson and Foran have formed a combination that has steered their amazing forward pack around the park.
When it comes to big game experience, Thurston and Cronk have been there and done that. They have reigned over NSW in the biggest series of all (Cronk first off the bench then to the starting line up with Lockyer retires) The Origin series, whilst on the off chance one of them doesn’t start well, they have DCE as cover off the bench. Johnson and Foran have both played grand finals but there is no doubt the experience edge goes to the Roos.
Pritchard will be a big loss for the New Zealanders as they look to dominate a side containing Gallen, Bird, Parker, Thaiday, Scott, Tamou, Papalii and Fifita. SBW is the linchpin but Ben Matulino, JWH and Bromwich have huge rolls to play. If they can’t get on top of the Aussie big men early, there will be little space for their halves and SBW to create and it could be goodnight.
Both teams possess game breakers in abundance but when it comes down to it, there is one man who stands above all others … Greg Inglis. There is no one like him in the Kiwi side, in fact there’s no one like him in the game. Hayne and Inglis stand head and shoulders above Goodwin and Whare in the centre battle and if supplied properly will be the huge beneficiaries of the class of JT and Cronk.
For mine, the Aussies win 26-18, with a late Greg Inglis try sealing the win for the Roos.
Prediction: Australia 26 – 18 New Zealand
FTS: I. Luke (NZ)
LTS: Inglis (Aus)
MOM: Thurston (Aus)
All the best to our New Zealand brothers, should be an amazing game, and one late night