League: Kiwis left reeling after ugly defeat

By Steve Deane

Simon Mannering and Fuifui Moimoi's dazed expressions sum up the Kiwis' confused performance against a rampant Kangaroos squad. Photo / Getty Images
Simon Mannering and Fuifui Moimoi's dazed expressions sum up the Kiwis' confused performance against a rampant Kangaroos squad. Photo / Getty Images

Australia 42

Kiwis 6

The Kiwis have pulled off some great form reversals in recent years. After yesterday's shocker in Newcastle, they will have to take that concept to new heights simply to avoid another humiliation when they face the Kangaroos in Warrington in 12 days' time.

This was the most abject Kiwis display since the 58-0 drubbing at the hands of the Kangaroos in Wellington in 2007. It was as if the ghost of Gary Kemble, the unfortunate coach who went on to preside over a 3-0 series drubbing in England, hovered over proceedings. That campaign began with a sex scandal at a Lower Hutt inn and ended in open mutiny, with captain Roy Asotasi and senior player David Kidwell agitating for the coach's dismissal.

There is no suggestions any repeat of that annus horribilis is in the offing. Kearney has a strong grip on both his job and his players. That said, yesterday was about as ugly as it gets.

In perfect conditions for running footy, the Kiwis had no answer to the class, pace and accuracy of the Kangaroos. Their linespeed was dismal, the wall of black shirts about as mobile and effective as the Maginot Line, while the fringe defence was more porous than Ned Kelly's tin suit once the Glenrowan constabulary were through with him.

On attack, the timing was awry, the handling awful.

Kearney had expressed confidence in the five debutants he sent into battle, but only Kevin Locke among them will have slept soundly last night.

Centres Lewis Brown - who had one cap to his name - and Gerard Beale were brutally exposed, as was wing Kalafi Faifai Loa. Prop Russell Packer's opening contribution in test football was to aim an elbow at Darren Lockyer's surgically repaired face. Packer found himself on report for that incident, his availability for the forthcoming Four Nations cast into doubt.

To the relief of the record crowd of 32,890 packed into Ausgrid Stadium, Lockyer bounced back strongly after being felled. The farewell tour rolled on, starting with the totting up of three Kangaroos tries in the blink of an eye.

Akuila Uate, the Knights winger playing his first match for Australia after six tests for Fiji, should have had a hat-trick inside the first 15 minutes. His first try came after just three minutes when Willie Tonga ghosted past Brown and put the ball on a plate for his winger. Brown was again the unfortunate victim in Uate's second try just four minutes later, Tonga standing and offloading in an ineffectual tackle to supply the killer pass.

Darius Boyd finished a slick move on the opposite flank after a neat delayed pass from Lockyer, Kieran Foran paying the price for spilling the ball on his own 20m line. Three tries in 13 minutes would have been four in 15 but Uate bombed a simple pass with the line begging.

Locke was a solid figure at the back but both wingers were left dreadfully exposed on the flanks.

Faifai Loa had a particularly rough introduction to test football, however the experienced Jason Nightingale fared little better. The rampant Kangaroos ran in two more tries down Nightingale's flank before half time, both scored by Chris Lawrence.

Locke's fine effort after good lead-up work from Issac Luke and Packer saw the Kiwis avoid being nilled, but three more Kangaroos tries as the match wound down into a lifeless affair ensured their humiliation was total.

- NZ Herald

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