2017 NRL - Grant Trouville © NRL Photos

For Josh Dugan and the Australian Kangaroos, England’s Kallum Watkins – and the 2017 Rugby League World Cup itself – was very nearly the one that got away.

Clambering in defence with only a six-point advantage late in the second-half, the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues incumbent turned and chased the England flyer who’d looked to be on his way for a try.

Outstretched to clip Watkins' heels, Dugan’s last-ditch effort ensured Australia’s converted-try buffer remained intact.

Dugan’s defence was that which encapsulated the style of play and the mindset instilled in coach Mal Meninga’s side –  an Inspiring effort, one of Selflessness and Excellence, and one which commanded Respect.

“I was really proud of how they defended again, they had to keep coming up with special efforts, particularly in that second-half,” Meninga said.

“It’s the best defensive side I’ve ever seen … The team has bought into everything we’ve been trying to achieve in the last couple of years, we talk about the ‘RISE’… all the players thrive on that.

“They just kept on doing special things for one another, and for the Green and Gold jersey. It was a special night for International Rugby League.”

Conceding just 16 points across their six matches played in the 2017 tournament, the Kangaroos bettered their defensive record of the previous World Cup, in where the side leaked 24 points.

“I knew ‘Duges’ had him,” Smith laughed.

“I think, as Mal said, there’s a lot of big plays that happened throughout the game, that one just stands out because if he would have got away, we might’ve been in a bit of strife.

“I’d like to think that we had a couple of guys coming from the inside. But Duges knew that was his man – he knew he had to get his job done for his teammates.”

Dugan’s game-changing play capped off an already impressive night for the New South Welshman, who ran for 180 metres and made 13 tackles, en route to sealing Australia's 13th-consecutive Test win - and back-to-back World Cups.