The Kangaroos celebrate the try scored by Greg Inglis.
The Kangaroos celebrate the try scored by Greg Inglis. GETTY IMAGES

Hall or nothing for Kangaroos

DEFENDING champions Australia went within a fingertip of possibly being bundled out of the Four Nations tournament before beating a tenacious England 16-12 at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

The match ended in high drama as match officials pored over more than a dozen replays before denying England winger Ryan Hall a 79th minute try, after Australian fullback Greg Inglis failed to shovel the ball dead.

A green light would have locked the game up 16-all and presented England sharpshooter Gareth Widdop the opportunity to bury Australia with a sideline conversion after the siren.

"He (Ryan) touched it (the ball), but it was rising," said Australian referee Gerard Sutton, explaining the decision as the Kangaroos escaped their first elimination from an international final since 1954.

England led 12-4 at halt time following converted tries to Kallum Watkins and Hall after Australian centre Michael Jennings crossed first for an early 4-0 lead.

Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt may not score a more crucial try than his touchdown a few minutes after coming into the game in the second half, pouncing on a Cameron Smith grubber.

Smith made 34 tackles, one less than his Queensland Origin team-mate Sam Thaiday, and was named man-of-the-match. But teammate Greg Inglis must have gone close to taking the award after scoring the match-winning try in the 62nd minute after a slicing run by five-eighth Daly Cherry-Evans.

Australia must now beat Samoa comprehensively next weekend and hope New Zealand beat England to guarantee a place in the final.

England faces a nervous wait with back-rowers Liam Farrell (chicken wing) and Sean O'Loughlin (tripping) both on report.

SCORE: Australia 16 (M Jennings, B Hunt, G Inglis tries; C Smith 2 goals) defeated England 12 (K Watkins, R Hall tries; G Widdop 2 goals) Crowd: 20,585 at AAMI Park yesterday afternoon.