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Australian skipper Darren Lockyer added to his already compelling case as the greatest ever Kangaroo as hew pocketed yet another Test record in his side’s 42-0 Four Nations thumping of rugby league minnows Papua New Guinea on Sunday.
Lockyer surpassed Ken Irvine as Australia’s leading Test try-scorer, his 34th four-pointer one of few highlights on a wet afternoon at Parramatta Stadium where the Kangaroos did just enough to get their campaign off on the right foot.
The Kumuls tried hard but were hopelessly outclassed, their best passage of play being the 30 minutes either side of halftime when they held the home side scoreless thanks to some enthusiastic defence.
Around it however the Australians scored with relative ease, the cobwebs of more than two months on the sidelines for a host of players visible as they took their foot off the pedal after beating the clock over the opening 25 minutes.
But it was clearly Lockyer’s afternoon, Australia’s most capped player and captain adding another entry to his stunning list of achievements.
“To break that record is pretty special,” Lockyer said.
“I’ve been privileged I’ve been able to play for Australia for a long time and along the way I’ve had some great memories and to chalk up a record is something I’ll always be proud of.”
While Lockyer seemed reluctant to bask in his glory too much, coach Tim Sheens said the skipper’s record spoke for itself when it came down to deciding who was the best.
“Based on the record book, yes he is (the best),” Sheens said.
“It puts him in that category but I’m certainly not going to start saying he’s a better player than Graeme Langlands or Bobby Fulton or the Immortal-type players.
“But he’s putting himself in that category.”
The record won’t be the only reason Lockyer will have memories of the match however with the five-eighth targeted by massive PNG centre Menzie Yere who unleashed a flurry of big hits.
And Lockyer wasn’t the only one to get rattled, with Kumuls coach Stanley Gene praising his side’s defence even if a 12-2 penalty count and poor play from the halves meant they weren’t able to do much with the ball.
“There would be a lot of ice in that Australian dressing room,” Gene said.
“You guys (in the media) were writing about us getting flogged and it was going to be a stroll in the park (for Australia) but the big thing I told the boys was not to throw the towel in.
“They fought all the way.”
That they did, with Australia looking like they would cover the 52.5 points starts being offered by bookmakers by halftime when they went 26-0 ahead after 25 minutes.
As dominant as Australia were they were helped out by some sloppy play by the visitors in the opening period, two tries coming from kicks, another after a knock-on from a PNG scrum win and Billy Slater’s opener coming after Lockyer’s kick hit the upright.
Willie Tonga celebrated his return to the Test ranks after a five-year hiatus with a double, with prodigal son Lote Tuqiri the only Australian back not to score a try.
“We were a bit rusty here and there but we did enough,” Sheens said.
“There’s a few bumps and bruises (and it was) a good hit-out.”