England wilts as Australia sets up Four Nations final vs NZ
LONDON (AP) — Australia set up a Four Nations final against New Zealand by beating England 36-18 on Sunday.
England wilted under the pressure at the London Stadium to gift the Kiwis a chance to defend their title against the Kangaroos at Anfield next Sunday.
Scotland had levered the door open for England with its stunning 18-18 draw with New Zealand on Friday but Wayne Bennett's team was not up to the task against a clinical Australia side which scored six tries.
Bennett criticized a lack of self-belief among his players.
"England's got to stop beating England," Bennett told the BBC.
England scrum-half Gareth Widdop and hooker Josh Hodgson both failed to find touch from what ought to have been pressure-relieving penalties at crucial times in the first half.
Widdop and Johnathan Thurston traded early penalties in a cautious opening but England demonstrated their confidence to run a penalty from in front of the posts on 25 minutes. It paid off when winger Jermaine McGillvary gratefully accepted a long pass from full-back Jonny Lomax, who was their best player, to cross for the game's first try.
The 6-2 lead was deserved but there were too many weak links in the England team, and the pressure told on 36 minutes when Australia full-back Darius Boyd cleverly patted the ball on for right winger Blake Ferguson to go over for his fourth try in five appearances.
Thurston converted from the touchline and added a 40-metre penalty in first-half stoppage time to increase the Kangaroos' lead to 10-6.
England might have been in front early in the second half when Hodgson produced a half-break to give Sam Burgess a clear sight of the tryline but the skipper could not hold onto the ball.
Three minutes later another fumble 10 meters out gave Australia a 10-metre scrum and centre Greg Inglis all too easily powered his way over from it.
Thurston maintained his unerring accuracy to make it 16-6.
Kangaroos prop Matt Scott took the entire England front row over the line with him to score his side's fourth try and man of the match Cooper Cronk eluded the attempted tackle of Percival to get centre Josh Dugan over.
George Williams showed some nice touches to engineer tries for Widdop and winger Ryan Hall - his 31st in as many appearances - but second-rower Matt Gillett and winger Valentine Holmes continued to punish England's poor defense with further tries and Thurston took his goal tally to six from eight attempts.