Australia captain Cameron Smith believes his rookie Kangaroos have become a far better side than the one which lost their Four Nations opener to New Zealand, ahead of Saturday’s tournament final in Wellington.
Australia qualified for the final against unbeaten New Zealand after beating Samoa 44-18 in Wollongong on Sunday before 18,456 fans.
With 11 rookies injected into coach Tim Sheens’ injury-hit 24-man squad ahead of the 30-12 loss to the Kiwis three weeks ago, the world champions were comprehensively outplayed by New Zealand.
Sheens blooded five Test rookies in that game, three in the 16-12 win over England Josh Jackson debuted against Toa Samoa.
Smith said his side has gelled considerably in the wins over England and Samoa, since their first up loss.
“We have grown a bit more patient as a football side over the last two weeks,” Smith said.
“In that first match given we had five debutants we went looking for cheap points when we were in an arm wrestle match against the Kiwis
“We were leading twice in that game 6-0, and 12-6 and then it got to 12-all and we instead of just knuckling down and sticking to our game plan we looked for the easy option
“Last week against England and particularly this week at times when we could have thrown the ball around a lot more we stuck to our game plan and the points came.
“But there is no doubt we need to improve on our performance this week against Samoa because we were comprehensively out-played last time we met the Kiwis.
With man of the match Greg Inglis scoring a first half double, Australia blew Samoa away in a five-tries-to-one 28-6 first half blitz.
Inglis’ 26th and 27th Test tries moving him to fourth ahead of Bob Fulton on Australia’s all-time try scoring list.
Samoa have been unlucky in close losses to England and New Zealand and fought back strongly in the second half, but late tries to Josh Papalii and Josh Mansour blew out the scoreline.
“In patches we were really good, we still allowed some soft points though and we still have some work to do,” Sheens said.
“The guys responded really well to the must-win scenario which isn’t always easy to play under.”
Coach Matt Parish bemoaned the string of penalties Samoa gave away early which allowed Australia to march upfield.
However he said Samoa’s efforts over the last three weeks had given them important thrust in the international game.
“We are obviously disappointed with the result but in the big picture we have made big inroads,” he said.
Captain David Fa’alogo said the tournament witnessed the emergence of Samoa as a world power.
“It is only the start for Samoa rugby league,”
“It is a good stepping stone and it will be nice to see big name players want to play for Samoa in the future.
“We have a big pool of players to choose from and that pool is only going to get bigger.”