Wayne Bennett proud of England's effort after final loss
Last Updated: 02/12/17 3:05pm
Wayne Bennett spoke of his pride following England's brave defeat to Australia in the Rugby League World Cup final, but declined to say whether he wants to continue as head coach.
England are still waiting for their first World Cup triumph since 1972 after going down 6-0 to the Kangaroos in their first final for 22 years.
However, they pushed the champions all the way in a dramatic battle in Brisbane.
Australia scored the only try through second rower Boyd Cordner in the 14th minute and held off a tremendous second-half onslaught from England to clinch an 11th title from 15 tournaments going back to 1954.
"I'm really proud of them," Bennett said. "I thought the game was somewhere around State of Origin standard. They were exhausted but still found another effort.
"They were wonderful and it's a pity there has to be a loser. Nobody really loses, the scoreboard says they do but the effort and intensity from both teams was outstanding.
"That's what makes sport great, someone has got to win, someone has got to lose."
The pivotal moment came in the 64th minute when England centre Kallum Watkins broke clear with men either side of him.
He stumbled after being ankle-tapped by Josh Dugan and the chance was lost.
"It was a moment but there were a lot of those moments, with both teams giving everything," said the 67-year-old Bennett, whose contract with the Rugby Football League has now expired.
"I'm not talking about that tonight," the Brisbane coach said when asked about his future. "At the moment I'm not thinking about that."
England captain Sean O'Loughlin, who missed the final with a quad injury, says the players want Bennett to stay on.
"I'm sure they would," he said. "I wouldn't see any reason why not.
"We've not quite got over the line today but we've definitely improved."
Australia coach Mal Meninga, who beat Bennett to the Kangaroos job two years ago, believes his old adversary has turned England into a serious force.
"It's up to him but they've made some huge strides, which is good for the international game," said Meninga, who has now gone 13 matches unbeaten as national coach.
"They're playing quality rugby league," he added. "They look and play like a Wayne Bennett-coached side. They control the footy well and keep on turning up for each other defensively.
"They've got that hard edge around their defence. There's not too many chinks in their armour... we found one tonight."
Both Meninga and captain Cameron Smith said Saturday's final was a throwback to the old days and the Melbourne hooker paid tribute to England.
"A lot of the boys said it was the toughest game they've played," Smith said.
"For me, because I've been playing for a long time, it's among the top three or top five matches, Origin included.
"It was played at such great intensity, like going back to the old Test matches I watched when I was a young fella, a very physical game where you had to fight tooth and nail for every metre.
"They're the games you want to be a part of. It feels so much better to be able to walk off with a victory knowing you've had to work hard for it.
"I've got to give England a huge rap. They were fantastic. They were prepared to get into an arm-wrestle with us and our defence got us home.
"We've been building for this for a couple of seasons and I'm very pleased we've been able to make history tonight.
"The last time a Kangaroos team won a World Cup on home soil was 40 years ago so that's pretty special for us."