Sport

Australia rip through Scotland in 84-0 Rugby League World Cup thrashing

One of Coventry’s best-known historical figures is Lady Godiva who, as legend tells it, famously rode through the English city naked on horseback in protest at high taxes in the 11th century. On Friday night it was the Kangaroos who stormed through the town, fully dressed of course, and caught the eye as they slaughtered Scotland 84-0 in their second Rugby League World Cup match.

It was a result never really in doubt in the wet West Midlands, considering the gulf between the defending World Cup holders and the minnow Bravehearts, who rely largely on lower league players of English and Antipodean heritage. The two countries have only ever played once before, back in the 2016 Four Nations in Hull, and that fixture ended in a similarly one-sided 54-12 victory.

But this time the damage was a lot more severe, with Australia piling on seven tries in the first half and eight more in the second. Nathan Cleary finished with a personal total of 28 points, with a try and 12 goals to his name, while Josh Addo-Carr claimed four tries and Campbell Graham notched a hat-trick.

Coach Mal Meninga rang the changes before the game, handing debuts to Matt Burton, Graham, Cleary, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo and Lindsay Collins. Considering the Kangaroos’ back-up halfback at this point is Cleary, it is a strength in depth that Meninga’s counterpart Nathan Graham could only dream of.

Before the match kicked off a minute’s silence was held for Redcliffe player Liam Hampson, who was found dead in Barcelona nightclub earlier this week. Hampson was traveling with several NRL players in Spain and is a friend of Kangaroos prop Patrick Cadigan.

A poor start from Scotland at the sodden Coventry Building Society Arena, who accidentally took the ball into touch from the kick-off, set the tone. This handed Australia a set on the Scots’ try-line, and almost a try after 70 seconds through a kick, but Alex Walker managed to ground the ball before Cleary could lay a hand on it.

It took five minutes for the Kangaroos to open the scoring, as Cleary floated a ball out wide for Addo-Carr to score in the corner. The halfback could not add the extras from the sideline, but his team had poked ahead 4-0.

It went to 8-0 six minutes later, when Jack Wighton brushed past some soft defence to touch down and the Penrith playmaker made no mistake this time, as the scoreboard started to move into overdrive.

In the 15th minute Lachlan Walmsley spilled a Cleary bomb and Angus Crichton pounced for the third try. It was a point a minute as Cleary made it 16-0. The Panthers star’s clinical kicking game was killing the Scots, with Matty Russell dropping one in the slippery conditions and forcing a drop-out. Then it was Graham, who would have been playing for Scotland at this World Cup through his Glaswegian father if not for a late call-up from Meninga, who barged over for Australia’s fourth try.

The Bravehearts started falling off more and more tackles, and soon it was Cleary who grabbed a soft try between the sticks before converting his own four-pointer. Four minutes later Addo-Carr secured his second, displaying his trademark pace, and then Wighton notched his own double thanks to Harry Grant’s pass.

It was 40-0 at half-time and the break came as blessed relief to Scotland. But the battering continued in the second half unabated, taking just 55 seconds for James Tedesco to cross.

Ben Hunt was the next to get on the scoreboard, running in off Cameron Munster’s pass, before Addo-Carr secured his third of the night. Cleary kept the lead ticking over, as the Bravehearts’ Kane Linnett was sin-binned for tackling Tedesco off the ball, with further tries coming to Burton, Yeo, Addo-Carr again and Graham twice.

With a mammoth 28 points in his first-ever Kangaroos appearance, the key question now is whether Meninga sticks with Cleary against Italy and for the rest of the tournament as his first-choice halfback, or plumps for rival Daly Cherry-Evans. That is the only potential concern for the Australian boss on a rainy night of green and gold World Cup dominance.