The Kangaroos have cruised into the World Cup semi-finals on the back of a 46-0 win over a Samoan side that failed to fire a shot in steamy conditions in front of a sold-out crowd in Darwin.
Billy Slater’s stunning season continued with the Storm fullback playing a role in three of Australia’s tries, but it was Valentine Holmes who stole the show with five tries and 246 running metres in a record-breaking performance on the left wing.
Samoa only limped into the knockout stage of the World Cup with two losses and a draw, and their indifferent form continued as they were totally outclassed in every facet of the game.
It didn’t take long for the Kangaroos to hit the lead when Josh Dugan batted on a Cooper Cronk chip kick into the path of Holmes who expertly scooped up the low ball to score in the left corner.
Dane Gagai missed a chance to extend Australia’s advantage but it mattered little as some brilliant counter-attacking play by Cronk and Holmes saw the Sharks speedster race away for his second try of the contest.
His evasive skills played a key role in the Kangaroos’ second try and Billy Slater was soon rewarded as he latched onto an inside pass from Matt Gillett to make it 18-0 after 25 minutes.
Slater’s stunning first half continued as he turned a seemingly innocuous play into Australia’s fourth try as his late offload in traffic eventually ended up in the hands of Michael Morgan who dummied his way through some flimsy defence to heap more pain on Samoa.
There was some debate as to whether Morgan should have started ahead of Cameron Munster but the Cowboys star silenced his critics when he grounded a Cameron Smith grubber intended for Cronk to complete his first-half double.
Samoa showed some signs of improvement in the second half, but after dodging a bullet when Tyson Frizell was held up over the line, the men in blue cracked from the next play as Slater put Holmes away to complete his hat-trick.
It was clearly Valentine’s night as he finished off a slick passing sequence around the ruck to stroll over for his fourth before the winger received an unlikely pass from David Klemmer to become the first player in World Cup history to score five tries in a game.
Australia 46 (Valentine Holmes 5, Michael Morgan 2, Billy Slater tries; Cameron Smith 7 goals) def Samoa 0 at Darwin Stadium. Half-time: 30-0. Crowd: 13,473