League: Kiwis solid in Anzac test loss

By Steve Deane

Shaun Kenny-Dowall of the Kiwi's is tackled by Paul Gallen and Cameron Smith of the Kangaroos. Photo / Getty Images
Shaun Kenny-Dowall of the Kiwi's is tackled by Paul Gallen and Cameron Smith of the Kangaroos. Photo / Getty Images

The question whether the Anzac test should be saved wasn't really answered last night.

A scoreboard that reflected another solid Kiwis' effort in defeat is probably all the ammunition needed for those who would like to see the fixture killed off. A winless streak that remains unbroken back to 1998 is indeed a bit of a yawn.

Look past the result and the case becomes less clear. Last night's match wasn't a classic but it was a full-blooded affair befitting an international contest.

As is so often the case, the Kiwis weren't quite clinical enough to slay a beast with borderline mythical powers - cut off a classy Kangaroo's head and another simply grows in its place.

But neither were the Kiwis bad. They had their moments, some of them thrilling, such as Shaun Johnson's scorching 90m intercept try.

The Anzac test may have some dubious qualities, but without it Johnson's highly encouraging test debut wouldn't exist.

And many of the 35,000 odd spectators that turned up probably would have stayed home and watched the Blues - a cruel fate indeed.

We would have also been denied the chance to ponder a hugely baffling refereeing display by Englishman Richard Silverwood. Last night's match was like stepping back in time, such was the skinny 10m and sluggish ruck speed the Englishman presided over.

By the end he seemed completely lost, even calling for television guidance for a routine line drop out decision.

The best that can be said for the Englishman was that he was equally disastrous for both sides and didn't impact on the result.

Pre-match predictions the Australians' greater familiarity with each other would be decisive proved correct. Both sides had their moments, the Kangaroos were simply more adept at seizing them.

The Kiwis may have shot themselves in the foot a couple of times, but they soldiered on admirably and were in it right to the end - not something they've always managed against the Kangaroos.

The first minute of his test career brought a scary moment for Johnson, with the young halfback left in agony after attempting a tackle on flying Fijian winger Akuila Uate.

Giant prop Sam McKendry was the most prominent of the Kiwis in the early going. He smashed his jaw to pieces in his most recent test against Wales but this time he came off best from a head clash with David Shillington.

Manu Vatuvei spilled his lollies on the first tackle but that didn't prevent the Kiwis from claiming the ascendancy and then the lead through Issac Luke's deserved try.

Gaining the upper hand against Australia is one thing, keeping it is quite another.

For the rest of the match the Kangaroos largely held sway, with master wrestler and distributor Cameron Smith dictating terms.

It was no surprise that Smith eventually landed the killer blow.

The question now is whether the fixture has also been fatally struck.

Australia 20

Tries: G Inglis, C Smith, J Thurston
Cons: Thurston (3)
Pen: Thurston

Kiwis 12

Tries: I Luke, S Johnson
Cons: B Marshall (2).

- NZ Herald

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