By Chris Kennedy, NRL.com
Mal Meninga’s revamped Kangaroos line-up was never seriously troubled in their opening Four Nations encounter, running away 54-12 winners over Scotland at Hull’s Lightstream Stadium.
The first ever Test between minnows Scotland and Australia saw the Four Nations debutants compete strongly but they lacked the polish to seriously threaten the might of the Kangaroos.
Despite ringing a host of changes in keeping his word to give every player in his squad a run, Meninga’s men barely missed a beat in the first half.
Man of the Match Matt Moylan had a whale of a game at fullback, slotting into the structures beautifully and tormenting the Bravehearts with a slick passing game to help create five of Australia’s tries.
Fellow first-gamer James Maloney got a run with Johnathan Thurston rested and he also made the best of his chances. Despite uncharacteristically missing three conversions he scored one try and had a hand in four and combined brilliantly with second-gamer Tyson Frizell on the left edge.
Lock Jake Trbojevic produced some bone-rattling defence in an assured debut and was rewarded with a late try; centre Justin O’Neill had a strong outing also but debutant hooker Jake Friend appeared to try a bit too hard to produce something after being brought on after half-time and produced two turnovers.
For the Bravehearts, hyper-competitive five-eighth Danny Brough was unsurprisingly his side’s best, creating their first try and taking the fight to the Kangaroos at every opportunity. The NRL contingent – in particular fullback Lachlan Coote and centre Euan Aitken – were welcome additions but the team overall just lacked the class to worry Australia.
The rot started in just the fifth minute. After competing tightly in the opening sets a Brough error after Blake Ferguson batted back a bomb handed the Aussies a scrum at the Bravehearts’ line. Quick hands from Moylan put Ferguson over on the left edge after he had wrapped all the way around from the other side of the field to get involved.
At the end of the set from the ensuing restart Smith and Cronk produced a line from the Storm playbook when the skipper darted from dummy-half then wrong-footed fullback Coote with a grubber angled back in that was telepathically read by Cronk to make it 10-0 after as many minutes.
From the very next set a lovely Cronk inside ball put Moylan into a yawning gap for a supporting Maloney to score and it became four tries in as many sets when Cronk earned his double supporting a Tyson Frizell line break.
The contest was already beyond doubt at 22-0 after 15 minutes but the Bravehearts refused to let their heads drop and continued to throw themselves at the green and gold line but they also continued to be their own worst enemies in their rare good-ball sets.
Instead it was Panthers winger Josh Mansour who scored the next two tries, in the 24th and 35th minutes, both off beautiful passes from his club captain Moylan.
Scotland were finally rewarded for their persistent efforts in the shadows of half-time when Brough put in a lovely grubber for his halves partner and Huddersfield teammate Ryan Brierly to swoop and score to make it 30-6 at the break.
With skipper Smith rested for the second half to give bench hooker Friend a run, some of the sting went out of the Aussies in the second 40. It didn’t stop centre Josh Dugan producing two slick pieces of footwork to break the line and run 50 to score just after the resumption but that was Australia’s last try until the 66th minute.
The intervening 20 minutes saw some scrappy play by the Kangaroos, a lovely 70-metre intercept run from Brough, a head clash which caused Josh Dugan and Luke Douglas to end their evenings early, and one powerful try to Bravehearts lock Ben Kavanagh running off a short ball close to the Aussie line.
The Kangaroos kicked back into gear late however with three late tries. Frizell got in on the scoring after going close a few times and yet again it came running a great line on the left edge off Maloney.
Utility Michael Morgan – filling in at centre for Dugan – ran in off yet another nice Moylan pass while debutant Jake Trbojevic earned himself a much-deserved four-pointer supporting a Trent Merrin line break right on full-time for a final 54-12 scoreline.
Next week both sides travel to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry for a double-header, with Scotland to face England and Australia and New Zealand to resume hostilities.
Australia 54 (Cooper Cronk, Josh Mansour 2, Blake Ferguson, James Maloney, Josh Dugan, Tyson Frizell, Michael Morgan, Jake Trbojevic tries; James Maloney 7 goals) defeated Scotland 12 (Ryan Bierley, Ben Kavanagh tries; Danny Brough 2 goals) at KC Lightstream Stadium. Crowd: 5,337. Half-time: 30-6 (Australia). Man of the Match: Matt Moylan (Australia).