After three rounds of exciting action, the top two qualifying teams in the 2016 Ladbrokes Rugby League Four Nations tournament will square off on November 20 to determine a champion. Of course, those two teams just happen to be two of the top three rugby teams in the world with #3 the Australian Wallabies versus the top-ranked New Zealand All Blacks.
Headed into the championship game, the Wallabies would have to be considered the favorite to walk away with the title based on its undefeated record of 3-0 in the tournament. As part of that record, they already defeated the All Blacks 14-8 in a game played two weeks ago at Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
Of course, the huge elephant in the room is the All Blacks currently stand as the reigning World Cup Champions after winning the 2015 World Cup by dominating the Wallabies by the score of 34-17. They also stand as the defending champions for this event after beating the Wallabies in 2014 by a score of 22-18.
With all of that said, the Aussie team figures to have revenge as a primary motivator. So far in the tournament, they are playing like a team possessed by the demons of past tournaments. They have dominated the scoring with 104 points scored against only 38 points allowed over its three round-robin games. In it’s opening 54-12 victory over a decent Scottish team, the Wallabies scored 10 tries with eight different players crossing the goal line.
Conversely, the All Blacks have had a great deal of difficulty crossing the line as evidenced by the fact they have scored fewer points (43) than they have allowed (48). If they have any designs on turning the tables in the championship game, they are going to have to be more aggressive and take a few chances.
Over the team’s last four international games, leading scorer Halfback Shaun Johnson has been held to one try and one field goal. After scoring a total of 139 points over the last 19 events he has participated in, his lack of scoring has to be a primary concern. Even more alarming has been the performance of Jason Nightingale, who has yet to score his first points of the tournament after scoring 68 points heading into the tournament.
On the bright side, Left-Wing Jordan Rapana has shouldered a majority of the scoring load with 3 tries in the tournament. It was also exciting to see Wing David Fusitu’a score the first two tries of his international career with the All Blacks. Both tries came in an 18-18 draw against Scotland.
On defense, the All Blacks are going to have to focus keeping the Wallabies out of scoring range where Johnathan Thurston will be able to use his leg to score goals. So far in the tournament, Thurston has connected on 9 of 12 goal kicks ranging from 16′ all the way up to 71′, adding a try for good measure for a total of 22 points to lead all scorers.
For anyone who might be interested in placing a bet on the final game, there are plenty of Australian online bookmakers that have posted decent free bet offers for new customers. Of the latest free bets being offered, some only require an initial deposit of as little as AUS$20 to get into action. By using one of these free bet offers to bet on the All Blacks, a AUS$20 free bet could turn into AUS$86.60 of free money with the right bookmaker. For more information on the latest free bets being offered, prospective punters might want to check out a few of the nation’s top online sports book destinations.