Hats off to England - but can they beat the Aussies?
At the Galpharm Stadium.
The scenes inside the England dressing room shortly after the final whistle on Saturday evening told their own story.
Tony Smith's team had just defeated world champions New Zealand to reach the final of the Four Nations and the normally reserved England coach appeared to be leading the victory song as his charges joined him and stamped their studs on the ground.
Smith raised his arms in triumph, another unusually extrovert gesture, as the singing finished - but it would take a mean-spirited person to deny the likeable Australian his brief display of celebration.
The 42-year-old's reputation was at its lowest point 12 months ago after England's dismal World Cup campaign down under. His team left home with great expectations but mustered only a solitary win over Papua New Guinea before a thrashing by Australia was followed by two losses to the Kiwis.
Smith took it hard and retreated to the sanctity of his farmhouse close to Huddersfield to nurse his bruises and reflect upon what had gone wrong.
The England coach decided that his ageing side needed overhauling, especially in the back division. It was time to enter a transitional phase, to build for the future.
He selected virtually an entirely new set of backs for this tournament and further underlined his commitment to youth by selecting Kyle Eastmond and Sam Tomkins, both 20, as the half-back combination for the winner-takes-all match against the Kiwis.
Kyle Eastmond crashes over for England's opening try
Both justified their selection by showing glimpses of the game-breaking qualities that mark them out as future superstars. Tomkins' cross-field kick under extreme pressure for Peter Fox's first score was a sensational example of what he can do, while Eastmond, slippery and elusive, scored his team's opening try.
But what perhaps really stood out from their performances was their defensive work, with Tomkins helping shut down New Zealand skipper Benji Marshall to the extent that the Wests Tigers half-back showed his frustration by squaring up to his younger opponent.
England played with grit, courage and a bloodied-minded determination that helped them edge a tight and engrossing match - and it was a victory built on defence. So porous in the first half against the Kangaroos, Smith's team have now conceded just 12 points in 120 minutes of football against last year's World Cup finalists.
England were stretched out wide at times - Ben Maulino's opening try for the Kiwis being one example - but there were no gaping holes for the Kiwis to exploit. Skipper Jamie Peacock talks about the team needing to use its 'smarts', and there was plenty in evidence at the Galpharm Stadium.
Smith had reverted to his trademark poker face by the time he answered questions from the press, but it was clear that he had found the defensive performance particularly satisfying.
"The way we defended was very committed," said Smith. "We did not get split too many times."
Smith must also be credited for making the late decision to switch Kevin Sinfield to start as hooker. Sinfield, of course, is a loose forward, but Smith's bold selection was rewarded with a man-of-the-match performance from the Leeds Rhinos skipper.
Sinfield was far from perfect - at times his distribution from dummy half was too slow - but he was central to an effective kicking game, with a series of well-executed bombs forcing a string of errors from the New Zealand back three.
"I'm very, very disappointed," said Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney after the match. "But I thought the English were wonderful tonight."
Smith felt the victory was a "real shot in the arm for Northern Hemisphere rugby and Super League". I think it is hard to argue with his assessment. The very fact that England have reached the final represents real progress. Doing it with a young squad bodes well for the future.
Kevin Sinfield is hauled to the ground by New Zealand's Thomas Leuluai
OK, the cynics will say that the Kiwis came into this tournament missing key players, but they didn't look too shabby as they drew with Australia in their opening match - a game they deserved to win.
That was the best performance of New Zealand's tournament, whereas England have progressively improved.
The other factor is the spirit in the squad. England's World Cup campaign was dogged by persistent rumours of cliques and splits between the sizeable St Helens and Leeds contingents.
I interviewed a couple of England players after Saturday's match and each one was interrupted by various team-mates cracking jokes at each other's expense. It is the sort of banter you hear quite often at club level, but with an international outfit it shows that individuals from different clubs feel comfortable with one another.
Of course, none of this means that England will beat Australia next weekend. The Kangaroos tore Smith's side to shreds for half an hour in Wigan, and only after the result was beyond doubt did England begin their comeback.
England and, before them Great Britain, have been built up in the past only for reality to come crashing down. Australia's 44-4 Tri-Nations win over GB at Elland Road in 2004 is a prime example.
I think reaching the final is a satisfying return for the current England team but, nonetheless, I was struck by the deadpan line delivered by the old warhorse Peacock in the wake of England's victory on Saturday.
Asked about his emotions after the win over New Zealand, he replied: "There is nothing to celebrate. There is no champagne in the dressing room."
Don't tell him England can already feel satisfied with their Four Nations campaign.