League: Kangaroos win but Kiwis not disgraced (+photos)

By Mark Geenty

Too much class and precision spurred the Kangaroos to a 28-12 centenary rugby league test win over a brave Kiwis side here tonight.

The visitors trailed 0-22 after as many minutes but finished strongly in one of their better mid-year test performances in recent years.

Before a larger-than-expected crowd of 34,571 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Kangaroos were led by a double from centre Mark Gasnier in a five tries to two win to commemorate 100 years to the day since the sides first met.

The Kiwis, trying to re-establish themselves as a test force under new coaching team Stephen Kearney and Wayne Bennett, won the

second half 12-6 but lack of combinations told.

Hooker Issac Luke and centre Setaimata Sa stamped their marks on test debut while forwards Sonny Bill Williams and Frank Pritchard helped spark the Kiwis' fightback.

Centre Iosia Soliola was huge in the second half, scoring a try and setting up their second to winger Sam Perrett on the fulltime siren.

The visitors suffered a blow just hours before kickoff when five-eighth Ben Roberts was ruled out with a hamstring strain suffered at yesterday's final training.

It contrasted with the Kangaroos' good fortune when star playmaker Johnathan Thurston was passed fit after an ankle injury scare.

Roberts' injury meant a last-minute callup for Warriors utility Lance Hohaia, who had an indifferent game in the key playmakers' role.

To make things worse, captain Roy Asotasi left the field after 15 minutes dry retching after a heavy collision, and didn't return.

Memories of October's 58-0 flogging in Wellington came flooding back when the Kangaroos raced to 22-0, three of their tries coming from poor dummy half defence.

The hosts took just five minutes to open their account via Gasnier from one of the best try assists ever seen, courtesy of Greg Inglis.

A Thurston chip was fumbled over the deadball line by Inglis who regathered with both hands in mid-air, hurled the ball back over his head for a waiting Gasnier to touch down.

At the other end, Luke nearly pinched a try from nothing but his 20m dash from dummy half was ended 1m short by a Billy Slater try-saving tackle.

Gasnier had his second before the 15-minute mark when the Kiwis were caught napping down the blindside.

Debut forward Paul Gallen then celebrated with a simple try from dummy half, then captain Cameron Smith kept it a point a minute when he slithered over with the suspicion of a double movement.

At last the Kiwis began to muscle up and they spent most of the last 15 minutes of the half on attack but poor kicking and handling errors cost them.

A Hohaia knock-on, his second fumble with the Kiwis hot on attack, summed up their half just before the siren.

Coaches Stephen Kearney and Wayne Bennett would have delivered heated words at the break and the Kiwis responded, holding the Kangaroos scoreless for nearly 40 minutes.

Soliola raced 40m to score an overdue try three minutes after the break from a Williams offload.

Sa was denied a debut try by referee Ashley Klein when he regathered an awkward bounce and raced away only to be ruled offside.

The Kiwis attacked bravely at the end but the 22-0 buffer proved enough.

A disappointed Williams said the Kiwis' strong finish augured well for the future.

"Our last 60 minutes showed what we're capable of, we've just got to build on that for the World Cup," he told Channel Nine.

"We tried our best but that first 20 minutes they got on top of us and showed how lethal they are."

Australia beat New Zealand 28-12 in the centenary rugby league test at the Sydney Cricket Ground here tonight.

Australia 28 (Mark Gasnier 2, Paul Gallen, Cameron Smith, Israel Folau tries; Johnathan Thurston 4 goals)
New Zealand 12 (Iosia Soliola, Sam Perrett tries; Jeremy Smith, Isaac Luke goals). Halftime: 22-0.

- NZPA

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