Kiwis stun Aussies in Tri-Nations opener

SYDNEY- The Kiwis scored one of the biggest boilovers in the history New Zealand rugby league with an amazing 38-28 win over Australia in a see-sawing opening Tri-Nations clash at Telstra Stadium last night.

The visitors stormed out of the gates to open up an 18-0 lead after as many minutes before holding off a magnificent fightback from the home side to score their first win over the Kangaroos in Australia since 1991, and their first in Sydney since 1959.

In a heart-stopping finish to the game, man of the match Clinton Toopi only sealed victory for the Kiwis when he completed a hattrick with four minutes remaining, with the small band of New Zealand fans in the 28,255 crowd sent into wild celebrations.

The Kangaroos appeared to be on their way to victory when they scored four tries in nine minutes before halftime, a Matt King try eight minutes after the break then putting the home side up 22-18.

But the Kiwis refused to give up, with a Nathan Cayless four-pointer in the 59th minute putting New Zealand back in front before Nigel Vagana took advantage of some slack marker defence to race 60 metres to give the Kiwis a 30-22 lead.

A penalty goal to Stacey Jones, playing his first Test match in two years, extended the margin to 10, before Kangaroos centre Mark Gasnier scored his second of the night to ensure a grandstand finish.

The Kiwis stunned the home side early with Toopi scoring a double in the opening eleven minutes of the match to give the Kiwis a surprising 12-0 lead.

The Australians threatened to hit back, with both Trent Waterhouse and Ben Kennedy denied tries after dropping the ball short of the line.

Brent Webb had the Australians well and truly on the back foot when he scored in the 18th minute. The Kiwi fullback took advantage of Waterhouse's inexperience in the centres where he had to play after winger Timana Tahu was forced from the field with a hamstring injury.

A decision by English referee Steve Ganson not to penalise Waterhouse for coming from an offside position to tackle winger Jake Webster angered the Kiwis and turned the match, with the Penrith backrower denying the debutant winger a near certain try in the 26th minute.

The call changed the momentum of the game, with the Kangaroos scoring tries in the 31st, 34th, 37th and 39th minutes to get back in the match.

Brent Tate scored the home side's opening try, with a magnificent 80 metre burst capped off by two ferocious fends on Roy Asotasi and Webb who were coming across in cover defence.

Halfback Andrew Johns scored Australia's second from close range soon after, and the Kangaroos were well and truly rolling when Mark Gasnier scored just inside the corner post, with the Kiwis a touch unlucky after it had appeared the centre had gone into touch before placing the ball down.

Tate's second try was simply brilliant, coming on the back of an 80 metre sweeping movement, with the ball passing through several sets of hands.

The play was brought to an end just short of the line and from there Johns cleverly got away an overhead pass to put Tate over, which locked up the game at 18-all at halftime.

New Zealand 38 (Clinton Toopi 3, Brent Webb, Nathan Cayless, Nigel Vagana tries; Stacey Jones 7 goals)

Australia 28 (Brent Tate 2, Mark Gasnier 2, Andrew Johns, Matt King tries; Craig Fitzgibbon goal; Andrew Johns goal)- AAP


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