Nathan Cleary has produced a rolled green and gold, 28-point haul that threatened to rewrite the record books as Australia did the same in an 84-0 thrashing of World Cup minnows Scotland.
Cleary’s long-awaited Kangaroos debut lived up to the hype and then some, the Panthers prize-winner throwing down the gauntlet to Daly Cherry-Evans in the pair’s battle for scrumbase supremacy.
Nathan Cleary looks for a pass during the Rugby League World Cup match between Australia and Scotland.Credit:Getty
With a try and 12 goals, Cleary threatened Andrew “Joey” Johns’ record 30 points on debut from a 1995 World Cup demolition of South Africa as Josh Addo-Carr bagged four tries down the left wing.
The last of Addo-Carr’s touchdowns took home play-of-the-day honours as Matt Burton flipped a ball headed into touch between his legs for his Bulldogs teammate to grubber and regather in the 78th minute.
The spectacular try gave Cleary one last crack at matching the Eighth Immortal’s record, though his sideline attempt swung wide.
Against a Scottish side featuring one NRL player in Dolphins-bound centre Euan Aitken, and only a few more who played Super League this season, the Bravehearts were on a hiding to nothing.
Loud cheers for the rare Australian attacking raid that was snuffed out by the Coventry crowd confirmed as much.
Australia’s Josh Addo-Carr, centre, celebrates with teammates after scoring the winning try during the Rugby League World Cup match between Australia and Scotland.Credit:AP
So a very small pinch of salt to suggestions Cleary is now a lay down misère to pip Cherry-Evans as Cameron Munster’s first-choice halves partner.
But you can only play what’s in front of you. And with proud parents Ivan and Bec watching in the stands, Cleary played Scotland like a fiddle as the Kangaroos shook off the ring rust of a first-up win over Fiji for the second largest win in Australian Test history.
Only the 110-4 World Cup demolition of Russia in 2000 sits beyond this supreme effort from Mal Meninga’s side, Cameron Munster running amok with five try-assists in the process.
Addo-Carr’s flurry of four-pointers with the first of three assists from Cleary, a simple cut-out ball opening the floodgates almost from the outset.
That Scotland’s first touch of the Steeden was a fluffed kick-off reception, handing the ball straight back to Australia, hinted as much.
Jack Wighton pouring through far too easily minutes later – Cleary once again throwing the last pass – left little doubt a cricket score was in the offing.
Cleary almost joined them with a four-pointer of his own next, but Angus Crichton beat him to the Scottish fumble that followed a Cleary high kick.
It took the 24-year-old all of 13 minutes to nab his own try when he scurried over from dummy-half, laying on another for fellow debutant Campbell Graham in between.
Addo-Carr and Wighton both treated themselves to second helpings as the Kangaroos kept pace with the clock en route to a 40-0 halftime lead.
James Tedesco joined them on the scoresheet 50 seconds after the resumption, Ben Hunt following suit the very next set as Cleary’s conversions chewed up more time between Australian tries than actual play.
Cleary kept knocking conversions over fun as tries to Graham and Matt Burton gave him ample opportunity to do so, his personal points tally hitting 24 in the process.
Only a final forward pass from Cameron Munster kept Cleary from running in a second try and matching Johns’ 27-year record, but further tries to Graham and Penrith teammate Isaah Yeo kept the points flowing.
Scotland’s best chance of troubling the scorers came in the final minute, bringing a 10,276-strong crowd to their feet at the prospect of a Bravehearts salvo.
That Liam Martin stripped the last hapless Scottish ball-carrier to snuff that out left nothing more to be said about one of the most dominant performances in Kangaroos history.
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