THE scoreline of 34-2 may have suggested Australia completely dominated the World Cup final against the Kiwis at Manchester United's historic Old Trafford ground yesterday morning.
But Penrith coach and New Zealand assistant Ivan Cleary said he believed the margin was misleading.
"Australia have been the dominant force in rugby league for as long as I can remember and it hasn't changed and won't change in the near future," Cleary said.
"But as a whole, I think the New Zealand team is getting closer.
"You need to remember there are some once-in-a-generation players in that Australian team and it's not always going to be that way.
"While it seems doom and gloom at the moment, in context, I actually think the gap is getting closer."
Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney wasn't so upbeat, saying he would need time to process the loss and work out his future.
"It is probably a bit raw for me at the moment," he said.
"I will go home and have a good think about it, do a bit of reflecting. It has been five years at the helm, so I need to have a bit of a think and just see."
Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens was understandably content, the victory helping erase some of the pain from the 2008 loss to New Zealand in the last final in Brisbane.
It also provided a measure of redemption for Aussie stars Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Paul Gallen and Johnathan Thurston who were on the losing team five years ago.
Thurston showed his class by winning the man-of-the-match and man-of-the-series awards, while even a suspected broken thumb couldn't wipe the smile off Inglis' face.
(Slater (2), C Cronk, B
Morris (2) tries; J Thur-
ston 7 goals)
2 (S Johnson goal).
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.