New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams insists there are no regrets after watching his bid to make history shattered by the rampant Kangaroos.
The former All Black was hoping to become the first man to win a World Cup in both codes of rugby but his much-heralded return to the Kiwis side ended in heartbreak with a crushing 34-2 defeat in Saturday’s final at Old Trafford.
The Sydney Roosters’ forward battled in vain as Australia dominated the match from the kick-off and Williams cut a desolate figure after watching Jarryd Hayne intercept his pass to create the last of Australia’s five tries.
“I’m heartbroken, just feeling really bad,” Williams said. “I left it all out there today. In the last 20 minutes it was disappointing. I guess I tried to over-play my hand, I tried to come up with something special and it just wasn’t to be. I definitely feel gutted for the brothers but full credit to Australia, they were just too good.”
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney dropped Tohu Harris from his initial squad to accommodate Williams after he belatedly made himself available, and the second-rower says he made the right decision, playing down the significance of missing out on a place in the history books.
“It was never about that, it was just about having no regrets when I retire,” said Williams, who returned to the NRL in 2013 after a five-year spell in the 15-man code.
“Thank God I was able to be a part of it. I’m disappointed but you win some, you lose some. It’s been a privilege to put the Kiwi jersey back on.
“It’s the thing that I missed the most. After a couple of weeks in camp, it was just like a family of brotherhood. It’s something you can’t really get when you’re playing at club level.
Meanwhile, Billy Slater dedicated his tries to his two children after his fitness gamble paid off handsomely in Australia’s resounding win. The 30-year-old full-back scored two of the Kangaroos’ five tries on his return from injury and afterwards revealed the part played in his individual triumph by his three-year-old son Jake and five-year-old daughter Tyla.
“I spoke to my five-year-old at home this morning and was about to go and she said ‘hang on daddy, can you score one try for me and one try for Jakey?’” he said. “So I got them both a try, which is quite pleasing.”
Slater was not expected to play in the final after aggravating an old knee injury in his side’s quarter-final win over the United States a fortnight earlier.
And the Melbourne number one admitted it was a gamble that could have backfired in the way New Zealand lost their leading try scorer Roger Tuivasa-Sheck seven minutes in.
The Kiwi heard a crack in his lower leg, prompting medical staff to suspect he had suffered a hairline fracture during last week’s win over England that had not been detected in X-rays.
“That’s the gamble you take,” he said. “That could have been me. If I fell on my knee awkwardly. You put your hand up for these games if you think you’re right and I thought I was.
“I was probably the most nervous I’ve been going into a game for a long time, just the uncertainty of how it was going to hold up. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really convince myself at training. I probably looked okay but I didn’t feel great.
“I got out there and today was probably the best it’s actually felt in the last fortnight.”