SYDNEY - New Zealand were blown off the park by the Australians last night in yet another match that did nothing to enhance the case for more international league, or anything to suggest the Kiwis are World Cup contenders.
The Kiwis were simply embarrassing in the loss at the Sydney Cricket Ground, not up to the standard expected of a showcase celebration of 100 years of the game for only 40 minutes.
They showed little purpose or resolve to start, were slow off the mark, uncoordinated and without any invention through the first half and, down 22-0 after the first quarter, robbed themselves of any winning chance. Hence there was little of the intensity the occasion promised.
Ticket sales were slow through the week but a respectable 34,571 turned up last night. A streaker who made a 110m dash at the end got loudest cheer all night. How many would come back next year to watch a similar rout? It's time to cut out these mid-season beat-ups and to face Australia at the end of the season, with our best team available and with decent preparation.
New Zealand were pathetic in the first half, their opponents queuing up to make huge ground gain and scoring repeatedly off penalties and errors. The loss of captain Roy Asotasi to injury after 16 minutes was no excuse, the game was gone by the time he was.
Ben Roberts suffered a hamstring strain in training on Thursday and withdrew yesterday, so Lance Hohaia came in to start his third international in combination with Thomas Leuluai. Both were largely ineffectual. The kicking game was poor.
Jason Nightingale and Brent Webb lacked understanding in covering kicks. So New Zealand played too much at the wrong end.
The Kangaroos started with the sort of flukey try that can kill resolve, Johnathan Thurston's kick to the in-goal was remarkably knocked back by Greg Inglis who was mid-air and heading out of the field, Mark Gasnier backing up to score. Luck, you might say, but they made their own luck here.
Wing Sam Perrett lost the ball in the tackle, the Aussies ran a short blind off the scrum and put Gasnier in again. A replay of the 58-0 result in Wellington looked on the cards. And even more so when the Kiwis stood like shop dummies and Paul Gallen strolled through to the posts then Cameron Smith followed to make it 22-0 after 22 minutes.
When New Zealand did get attacking chances their option taking was poor and three times they knocked on near the tryline.
There were just four minutes to the break before the Kiwis forced Australia to their first goal-line drop-out. But Sonny Bill Williams was contained and they seemed devoid of other attacking ideas.
Two minutes after the break, centre Iosaia Soliola ran in a great 40m solo try. From then to the 64th minute the defence held, until Israel Folau scored off a Thurston kick.
The Kiwis replied through a similar effort to Perrett in the last minute.
Positives? Hard to find. Issac Luke shows promise at hooker. Biggest negative? We still desperately need a halfback and five-eighth.
Kangaroos 28 (Mark Gasnier 2, Paul Gallen, Cameron Smith, Israel Folau tries; Johnathan Thurston 4 cons).
Kiwis 12 (Iosaia Soliola, Sam Perrett tries; Jeremy Smith 1, Isaac Luke 1 con). Halftime 22-0.