England simply needed to avoid defeat to make it through to next Sunday's Four Nations Final where they would again meet today's opponents, Australia. Any thoughts that Australia would field a weakened side were crushed when they announced their strongest line-up, the Aussies determined to make it a clean sweep of victories in the group stage.
Wayne Bennett rang the changes for England with Kevin Brown, James Graham, and John Bateman all in the starting line up with George Williams moved to the bench after his starring role last week.
Australia dominated the opening ten minutes as they took the game to England looking for the opening points, but it was a penalty for interference at the play the ball that put the host nation ahead when Gareth Widdop kicked a twenty metre goal.
Australia levelled the scores on seventeen after Kallum Watkins took a player out off the ball, and Jonathan Thurston accepted the chance to kick the penalty.
On twenty-five England turned down the chance of a penalty and ran the ball. An attempted intercept gave them a second set and three tackles in Jonny Lomax put in a bullet miss-out pass which went into the hands of Jermaine McGillvary who scored in the corner. Widdop failed to kick the extra two from wide.
Five minutes from the break and following two successive penalties in the England twenty, the Kangaroos got their first four-pointer when Ferguson took a pass from Boyd, above his head, to go over in the corner. Thurston put the touchline conversion right between the uprights for 8-6.
A shoulder charge on Boyd Cordner by Sam Burgess gave Thurston a thirty-five metre penalty opportunity which he slotted over for a 10-6 half time lead for the Aussies. The main difference in the first half had been the poor kicking game from England with Widdop missing a conversion and twice failing to find touch from penalties.
England dominated the opening exchanges in the second half but when Kallum Watkins knocked on while trying to intercept, the Aussies used a couple of tackles before Greg Inglis bust the Line to stretch and score on forty-seven. Thurston added the extras for 16-6 and the Green and Golds were starting to pull away.
The game looked won on fifty-six when Matthew Scott somehow managed to get to the line after a big Inglis run. Five England tacklers couldn't halt Scott's determination and when Thurston kicked the extras it was 22-6 and all over for the Wall of White.
Two minutes later and it was getting too easy as Josh Dugan went twenty-five metres down the right wing to cross without a defensive hand being laid on him. Thurston kicked his sixth of the afternoon for 28-6 and it was starting to get embarrassing.
There was some consolation on sixty-six when Gareth Widdop took a Sam Burgess pass before pushing off two tacklers to stretch and score on the line. He converted his own for 12-28.
Matt Gillett got Australias fifth try on seventy-two when took a short pass to push off two tacklers and ground. Thurston missed the extras, his first failure with the boot, for 32-12.
Ryan Hall continued his 'try a game' scoring record on seventy-five when he took a fast ball from Mark Percival to walk over in the left corner. Widdop added the extras from the touchline for 18-32. But it was only brief respite as two minutes from the end the Aussies kept the ball alive in the England twenty with Valentine Holmes scoring acrobatically in the corner. Thurston failed to add the extras but his side had a commanding 36-18 win.
Next Sunday will see New Zealand take on Australia at Anfield for the Four Nations crown. England were never really at the races and despite putting in plenty of effort they trailed in skill and quality and in the end it was a cruise for Australia. The single point loss to New Zealand in the opening fixture cost England dear and the top two teams in the competition had made it to the final.
England: Lomax, McGillvary (T), Watkins, Percival, Hall (T), Brown, Widdop (T, 3G), Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Whitehead, Bateman, Burgess S. Subs: Burgess G, Burgess T, Cooper, Williams.
Australia: Boyd, Holmes (T), Inglis (T), Dugan (T), Ferguson (T), Thurston (7G), Cronk, Scott (T), Smith, Woods, Cordner, Gillett (T), Merrin. Subs: Klemer, Morgan, Frizel, Thaiday.
Referee: Rob Hicks.