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Saturday, 25 November, 2000, 16:59 GMT
Australia win epic World Cup final
Australia 40-12 New Zealand
Australia were crowned world champions for a sixth successive time after overcoming the brave challenge of New Zealand.
In an epic final at Old Trafford, the Kangaroos showed true class in seeing off their fierce rivals, who had been tipped to cause an upset.
Wendell Sailor stole the headlines with two great tries, but Mat Rogers had an almost faultless afternoon with the boot as Chris Anderson's side ran out 40-12 winners.
Australia stepped on the gas from the kick-off, tearing into New Zealand at every opportunity.
But the Kiwi defence stood firm, although they needed a big helping hand from the video referee on 22 minutes.
Sailor looked to have scored the first try of the game after a rapid burst down the right wing only for the fourth official to rule that Stephen Kearney had somehow prevented the Brisbane Broncos star from grounding the ball.
Three minutes later, his delicate kick was pounced on by Matt Gidley, who beat Kearney to the touch down.
Rogers, assuming the kicking duties in place of the injured Ryan Girdler, landed the conversion to open up a 6-0 lead.
New Zealand had few opportunities to go on the offensive, although they finished the first half strongly.
Looked in control
But it was favourites Australia who looked in control and deservedly went into the break in front.
The start of the second half was held up the appearance of a male streaker.
When play finally got under way, the tackles were just as ferocious as ever, neither side giving an inch.
But it was Australia who had the edge, and they landed what looked like the knockout blow within six minutes of the restart.
Brad Fittler's defence-splitting pass presented Nathan Hindmarsh with the chance to steam over from close out - and the 21-year-old did just that to make the score 10-0.
Rogers, with a bandage wrapped round his head, duly made it 12-0 with his trusty left boot.
But New Zealand were not about to throw in the towel and hit back almost immediately.
Lesley Vainikolo pounced on a loose ball to dive over on 49 minutes, although the powerful winger was forced to endure an anxious wait before the try was given.
No sooner had the Kiwis given themselves a lifeline than Australia had reimposed their superiority, though.
Scrum-half Brett Kimmorley made a decisive break down the right before feeding the ball inside to Darren Lockyer, who crossed the line unapposed.
Rogers' third successful kick made it 18-6 to the defending champions.
The game was turned on its head again moments later as the intensity began to build inside Old Trafford.
Tonie Carroll showed immense strength to shrug off several Australia tackles before diving jubilantly over the line. Henry Paul's conversion made it 18-12.
New Zealand were guilty of some poor handling as they tried to level the final up.
And Australia made the most of a series of escapes to put the game beyond the reach of their bitter rivals.
The imposing Sailor grabbed two tries in the space of five minutes to take his tally for the World Cup to 10, the first coming on 63 minutes courtesy of a superb reverse pass from Gidley.
Rogers could even afford a smile when he missed the second of two quiick conversions, knowing victory was virtually assured.
Skipper Fittler blew a hole in the New Zealand defence on 73 minutes to score his first try of the final, converted, as expected, by Rogers.
Then Trent Barrett left the Kiwis trailing again with a delightful surge, the substitute diving over underneath the posts to hand Rogers the easiest of kicks.
Australia: Lockyer, Rogers, MacDougall, Gidley, Sailor, Fittler, Kimmorley, Webcke, Johns, Kearns, Tallis, Fletcher, Hill.
New Zealand: Barnett, N Vagana, Carroll, Talau, Vainikolo, H Paul, Jones, Smith, Swain, Pongia, Rua, Kearney, Wiki.
Referee: Stuart Cummings (RFU).
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