With the 4 Nations, all wrapped up and the 2016 season now officially over we take a look back at the good- and not so good of the 2016 Rugby League 4 Nations.
Any tournament can only be deemed a success or failure by it’s final. It is the 1 match that everybody remembers and the 1 match that will be shown in highlight packages for years to come.
The 2016 final was of course a neutral affair, between the world champions Australia and the world number 1 team New Zealand. With England failing to make it to Anfield the final had to deliver.
In front of a huge crowd for a neutral match the 2016 4 Nations Final needed New Zealand to get off to a strong start and pull out to a lead. It seemed that that was exactly what New Zealand intended to do but despite creating some good openings they just could get over the line and after that good opening 5 minutes for the Kiwis, it was all Australia from there on in.
Australia dominated the match and had the game won by half time but with so much quality on display for both teams, the match was always engrossing and kept the 40,000+ fans in their seats.
The Group Stage
The group stage of the 2016 4 Nations had some incredible highs, from Scotland becoming the only 4th ranked country to take a point for one of the big 3 teams and they nearly came away with a win) to a sell-out crowd giving a great atmosphere for a good match between New Zealand and England but there were also some low points with poor crowds at Coventry and England.
Whilst matches between England and New Zealand, Scotland and New Zealand and Australia and New Zealand were good matches England struggled in their matches against Australia and Scotland and the Scotland v Australia match was a walkover played in front of a shockingly poor crowd at Hull KR.
Australia dominated the group stage from week 1 to week 3 and showed that they had too much in both attack and defence and despite resting players in each match, nobody could get close.
2. New Zealand
New Zealand played well against England but in truth it was the deficiencies of England that gifted them the win and then they lost against Australia in a match that it took until the last quarter to finally get going. In the 3rd round they only needed a win to basically guarantee a final place and despite facing a Scotland team that had been blown away by Australia and ultimately lost heavily to England, they struggled in tough conditions in Cumbria and in the end, they were fortunate to get the point that in the end proved just enough.
England played well in Huddersfield but still came up short in what many though, and what turned out to be, a must win match against New Zealand. Up against a Scotland team with some semi-pro and lower league players the England team just simply didn’t perform well enough and through a mixture of poor ball handling and making the wrong decisions and the wrong time, Scotland stayed in the game until late on.
The tiring Scots and the sin binning of Danny Brough coupled with the last second try helped England put a gloss on the final score.
At the London Stadium England, new that anything other than a loss would get them to the final but they simply never looked to be fully up for the fight and seemingly never expected they could get anything form Australia. Coach Bennett stated that it is a mental problem and with just a couple of warm ups before the 2017 World Cup, England need to find a way past that and quickly.
Despite finishing in last place, it was Scotland who took the majority of the plaudits from the Group stage of the 2016 4 Nations with a good performance against England followed by a monumental effort against New Zealand where they were unlucky to come away with just a point.
With more people watching the highlights of this match the next day than watch the England Rugby Union team play the same weekend the real success or failure of Scotland’s campaign will be found in the years the come and the legacy, or lack thereof, it has on Scotland as a Rugby League nation.
The decision to take a double header to Coventry was a mistake. If you played the Australia v New Zealand match there and promoted the game as the World Champions v the Number 1 team in the world, you could have more than likely received a similar attendance and therefore allowing for another potential sell out for the England game closer to the ‘heartlands’. Whilst spreading the game is the number 1 issue hearting the sport at the moment, we as a sport need money to do that and maximising the ticket sales for England matches has to be at the forefront of that.