AUSTRALIA emphatically recaptured the Rugby League World Cup trophy with a dominant 34-2 defeat of defending champions New Zealand in front of a record crowd at Old Trafford.

Led by man-of-the-match Jonathan Thurston and outstanding playmakers Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and two-try full back Billy Slater, the Kangaroos ruthlessly dismantled a Kiwi side that never once looked capable of competing for the silverware.

Because for all the build-up, anticipation and discussion pre-match, it proved to be something of a formality for Australia to regain the title they so painfully lost on home soil in 2008.

Every aspect of their game was a class above, and with this New Zealand team hyped to be even stronger than the one that triumphed in 2008 it goes to show just how special this group of players in green and gold actually are.

In reality New Zealand were never truly at the races, be that because of the hangover from their epic semi-final against England a week earlier or simply because their opponents were too strong.

The Aussies hit the front after just two minutes and never looked back, opening a 16-2 half time lead thanks to the first of Slater’s tries, a deserved effort from Cronk and the trusty boot of Thurston, who slotted over all four chances from the kicking tee.

If New Zealand -and indeed the partisan 74,468-strong crowd- hoped for a repeat of the comeback seen in 2008, they were to be deeply disappointed.

Any hopes of that were snuffed out inside 40 seconds of the restart, when Australia’s holy trinity of Smith, Thurston and Slater combined with the help of Darius Boyd to send Slater in for the second of his brace.

It was the last thing the sell-out Old Trafford crowd, the largest attendance for any international game of rugby league, wanted to see.

They had set their stall out early as firm New Zealand supporters, meaning the skill, fight and execution of the Australian side kept them subdued throughout.

On the rare occasions that New Zealand actually threatened, Australia’s rock-solid defence swiftly shut them down and the team which had been so impressive with ball in hand throughout the tournament looked toothless against the might of the Kangaroos, who ended this match having not conceded a try since the opening week in Cardiff.

It felt like a game in which England’s participation would have resulted in a better atmosphere, a more fitting atmosphere for the outstanding exhibition of rugby league put on by Australia from start to finish.

But one thing England’s participation wouldn’t have changed is the outcome, because as Brett Morris hurtled over for two, brilliant tries in the space 20 second-half minutes it became clear that regardless of who had lined up against them, Australia were destined to return home with the World Cup trophy in tow.

New Zealand: Kevin Locke; Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Dean Whare, Bryson Goodwin, Manu Vatuvei; Keiran Foran, Shaun Johnson; Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Issac Luke, Jesse Bromwich, Simon Mannering, Sonny Bill Williams, Elijah Taylor. Subs: Frank-Paul Nu'uausala, Sam Kasiano, Ben Matulino, Alex Glenn.

Australia: Billy Slater; Brett Morris, Greg Inglis, Jarryd Hayne, Darius Boyd; Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk; Matthew Scott, Cameron Smith, James Tamou, Greg Bird, Sam Thaiday, Paul Gallen. Subs: Daly Cherry-Evans, Josh Papalii, Andrew Fifita, Corey Parker.