RUGBY LEAGUE: A man-of-the-match performance in the Four Nations final by Darius Boyd has ended his best-ever year in the game on the highest possible note.
Boyd was a stand-out in the Kangaroos' 34-8 walloping of the Kiwis at Liverpool's iconic Anfield Stadium in the early hours of Monday morning, throwing the final pass for the first two tries and scoring one himself. The win puts Australia back as No.1 in the world, a position it surrendered to the Kiwis when beaten in the same tournament five years ago.
From the fourth minute, when fullback Boyd threw one of his now-trademark cut-out passes to put Blake Ferguson over in the corner for the first of Australia's six tries, the writing was on the wall for a New Zealand team that has been far from its best during the Four Nations.
The Kiwis struggled in every department during the final, particularly in the first half. Australian's first three tries came directly from opposition errors, and their completion rate midway through the first half was a tardy 50%. The result was in the bag at half-time, with the Kangaroos leading 24-0 in front of a packed house of 40,042.
And for Boyd, who repeated Year 12 at his Gold Coast high school because he had not been scouted by an NRL club, the victory maintained his perfect record in the green and gold. He has now played 23 Tests for 23 wins, and his second-half try was his 16th for Australia.
"I am really happy that I could help the boys bring back the Four Nations trophy to Australia, and regain our No.1 standing in the game,” he said.
After being named the Paul Morgan Medallist as Broncos player of the year for 2016 a week before the Kangaroos gathered for the tour, Boyd rated this past season as the most fruitful of his 11 playing in the NRL.
"Yes, I would rate this season as my best,” he said.
"I can't think of a previous season where my form overall has been so consistent at a high level. And to play my preferred position of fullback at Test and Origin level as well has capped off a really enjoyable year.”
While Boyd was named man of the match in the final, halfback Cooper Cronk was voted player of the series and winger Blake Ferguson won the Harry Sunderland Medal as Australia's international player of the year.
After establishing their huge half-time lead the Kangaroos were guilty of some sloppy football at times in the second half and won the second half just 10-8. Losing concentration after launching big leads has been one of their flaws during the tournament and something coach Mal Meninga will be keen to address before next year's World Cup, the final of which will be played at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on December 2.
But generally, Meninga was ecstatic with the efforts of all players during the six weeks of the tournament.
"Everyone bought into what we wanted to achieve over here, even though we mucked around with team selections for the first few games,” he said.
"But for the past fortnight I have been really happy with our performances. Whether in the actual team or supporting, we all had a role to play and at the end of the day the team that beat New Zealand weren't only playing for themselves, but for the entire group.
"As a coach, I couldn't be happier.”
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