Four Nations: Australia beat England 36-18 to reach final and eliminate hosts
|Ladbrokes Four Nations|
|England (6) 18|
|Tries: McGillvary, Widdop, Hall Goals: Widdop (3)|
|Australia (10) 36|
|Tries: Ferguson, Inglis, Scott, Dugan, Gillett, Holmes Goals: Thurston (6)|
England were comprehensively beaten by a clinical Australia at London Stadium as their Four Nations campaign ended in miserable fashion.
The home team needed to avoid defeat to reach the final at Anfield next weekend but, after taking an early lead, they were comprehensively outplayed by a team that superbly built pressure and cruelly exposed England's weaknesses.
England led 6-2 at the half-hour mark after a try from Jermaine McGillvary, but Australia dominated territory and eventually scored when a brilliant pass from full-back Darius Boyd saw Blake Ferguson touch down out wide.
The Kangaroos, already assured of a place in the final, opened up a 10-6 advantage at the break and after Sam Burgess failed to collect a pass from Josh Hodgson under the sticks shortly after the restart, they quickly took the game beyond England.
Greg Inglis scored from a scrum, Matt Scott barged over and Josh Dugan finished a clinical break as the Kangaroos moved 28-6 in front.
Gareth Widdop and Ryan Hall scored for England and Matt Gillett and Valentine Holmes did likewise for the Kangaroos in an entertaining last 20 minutes as the green and gold won by 18 points in front of 35,569.
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Not enough smarts or just not good enough?
England coach Wayne Bennett has made it clear through this campaign he thinks England have the ability to win at the highest level, but questioned whether they have enough 'smarts'.
Bennett was talking about his team's performance at key moments in matches, and England gave penalties away at poor times here, as well as twice failing to find touch after being awarded a penalty - an almost unforgivable failure at this level.
There were also examples when England could not quite convert promising openings into points - centre Mark Percival failing to hold a difficult pass in the opening half and Burgess likewise early in the second half - both of which were when the result was still in the balance.
And while Australia brilliantly built pressure, it was 51 minutes before England forced a repeat set and their kicking game too often failed to ask questions of the opposition.
Yet there were also times when it seemed what separated the teams was not the little details at key moments but a huge gulf in class, with Australia a well-oiled, methodical machine England could not live with.
Tough times in Wayne's world
Bennett is a coaching legend, having won the NRL title in Australia seven times with Brisbane Broncos and St George, as well as coaching Australia twice and Queensland in the State of Origin.
But there has been little evidence of his alchemy during a scratchy Four Nations campaign for his team - his first as coach of England.
They failed to build on last year's series win against New Zealand - which came under previous coach Steve McNamara - with a slender one-point defeat against the Kiwis in their opening game and briefly trailed against Scotland before rallying to a 38-12 win.
They were unable to resist Australian pressure on Sunday and will need to show a significant improvement if they are to go deep in next year's World Cup.
Bennett played three different combinations in as many games in the halves - suggesting he has yet to work out his best team - and found himself the unwanted centre of attention after being accused of not doing enough to help develop the game.
Australia extend their winning streak
It might have been a miserable afternoon for England but it was anything but that for their opponents.
Mal Meninga's Kangaroos remain unbeaten in 2016 and have now won their last 11 matches against England, a sequence that stretches back to 1995.
They went into match assured of a place in next Sunday's final and fielded arguably their strongest side of the Four Nations so far, with man-of-the-match Cooper Cronk and Thurston together in the halves for the first time.
Cameron Smith's team built pressure from the off, completing their sets and playing the majority of the match in England territory.
And although England showed plenty of guts and skill in defence during the opening 40 minutes, the Kangaroos pin-point kicking game eventually told and their opponents cracked.
How they lined up
England: Lomax, McGillvary, Watkins, Percival, Hall, Brown, Widdop, Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Bateman, Whitehead, S. Burgess.
Replacements: T. Burgess, G. Burgess, Cooper, Williams.
Australia: D. Boyd, Holmes, Inglis, Dugan, Ferguson, Thurston, Cronk, Scott, Smith, Woods, Cordner, Gillett, Merrin.
Replacements: Klemmer, Morgan, Frizell, Thaiday.
Referee: Robert Hicks