Stephen Kearney puts an arm around Sonny Bill Williams. Photo: Getty Images
MANCHESTER: Coach Stephen Kearney admitted New Zealand were outclassed by a magnificent Australian team as the Kangaroos regained the Rugby League World Cup for the first time since 2000 at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Tim Sheens' men turned on the style with a flawless display to win 34-2 in front of a crowd of more than 74,000 - a world record for an international rugby league fixture - and Kearney said his men had no way of stopping them.
"Australia today were nothing short of outstanding and we just couldn't get in the contest," Kearney said.
Australia win Rugby League World Cup
Billy Slater of Australia dives over the line to score the opening try. Photo: Getty Images
"Their performance was pretty faultless."
The loss of international winger of the year Roger Tuivasa-Sheck with a suspected broken leg after just six minutes forced Kearney to move back-rower Alex Glenn to the centres and Dean Whare to the wing.
And the former Parramatta coach said it was a setback his side never recovered from.
"He will have scans tomorrow but it doesn't look good for him," Kearney said.
"When you replace a winger it's hard because you don't have one on the bench.
"You have to shuffle lads around and have a makeshift centre with your centre going to the wing.
"Straight away it throws that edge out and Australia had a bit of success in that area."
Captain Simon Mannering pin-pointed Billy Slater's try 22 seconds after halftime to give Australia a 22-2 lead as the moment he knew the game was slipping away.
"They played very well, we probably went away from our strength of going through the middle and they slowed us down," Mannering said.
"We were far too loose ... and they definitely played a good game in that first half. We completed a lot in the first half but were not smart with it and they made no errors.
"It was pretty disappointing to concede that try after halftime and I think it just summed up the game for us."
Mannering also admitted the occasion may have got the better of some of hos younger players.
"The guys were up for it and excited and I am not too sure if we were affected or not but it was certainly a big lesson for us," he said.
Despite the loss, Kearney believes the future is bright for the Kiwis and the tide can turn with the likes of Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater all in their 30s and unlikely to be around for Australia in the long term.
He also challenged his side to use the pain of defeat as a motivation to retain the trophy they won in Brisbane five years ago.
"We have some pretty young kids in that side feeling the hurt and having to hear Australia celebrate in the other dressing room," he said.
"(They have to understand) a performance like Australia's is what it is going to take to lift that trophy again."