League: Kangaroos grind down Kiwis

By Michael Brown

Greg Bird of the Kangaroos is tackled during the ANZAC Test match between the Australian Kangaroos and the New Zealand Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images.
Greg Bird of the Kangaroos is tackled during the ANZAC Test match between the Australian Kangaroos and the New Zealand Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images.

Australia 32
New Zealand 12

The Kiwis experienced the familiar taste of defeat in the Anzac test, and their heaviest in recent time, but they would do well to remember the unfamiliar taste of fear Australia might have experienced for 40 minutes.

In the past three years New Zealand have rolled up, battled hard for 60 minutes and then succumbed as the class of Australia takes over.

It happened again this time but something else happened. A largely young and inexperienced side missing some of the biggest names in New Zealand rugby league seriously threatened one of the best Australian sides assembled and it took some good fortune for them to get out of it.

The Kiwis had three first-half tries disallowed by the video referees _ one was clearly not a try - and Australia had one dubious one awarded to Greg Inglis early in the second half that gave the home side significant momentum.

The Kangaroos rattled on five second-half tries as they clicked through the gears and put the game out of the Kiwis' reach.

"The try right on halftime maybe shook us up a bit which maybe we needed,'' Australia coach Tim Sheens said. "The boys had that kangaroo-in-the-headlights look.

"We came out and took our chances in the second half and had the class to put a score on them.''

New Zealand missed some steady heads under pressure at this time and it didn't help they had lost skipper Simon Mannering prior to kickoff with a calf injury. Kieran Foran, who was already playing for the first time without the training wheels on with Benji Marshall absent, was handed the captaincy's armband.

The Kiwis selectors had been keen to see how some of their young players reacted under pressure but they probably didn't expect so many things to go wrong prior to kickoff. Or the referees to rule so harshly against them during the match.

"Very disappointed,'' coach Stephen Kearney lamented. "I thought we probably deserved a bit more reward for the effort in the first half but I didn't expect the lads to go out there and lose their way in the second half.''

It was a demoralising end to what had been, for 40 minutes, a hugely encouraging performance. The good thing is Kearney can still add the not inconsiderable might of Benji Marshall, Sonny Bill Williams, Jeremy Smith, Sam Kasiano and Krisnan Inu for the World Cup.

Australia were at full strength. And they had been reminded of it often. Even the bookmakers had installed them at ridiculously short odds.

The game could have gone one of two ways and it looked ominous when Australia scored through Cooper Cronk in the opening five minutes. It was a ridiculously easy try and at that stage the Kiwis were backpedalling and getting bullied by a fired-up Kangaroos pack.

But it seemed to wake the Kiwis from their slumber and they played out a terrific first half and could have had a handy lead at the break.

"We probably deserved to be up 18-6 at halftime with the tries that were disallowed,'' Foran said.

As it was, it took until the final play of the half to register their first points when Frank Pritchard, who had a storming half in the second-row, put in a grubber that Josh Hoffman wanted to get to more than Billy Slater. It was the least they deserved.

The Kangaroos came out with more intent in the second spell and built pressure on the back of a big weight of possession.

The Kiwis simply couldn't get their hands on the ball as the errors and penalty count mounted and the Kangaroos found gaps as the resistance waned.

"There were individuals who let themselves down and that was the point of my talk in the sheds [afterwards],'' Kearney said. "If we want to be a side that challenges Australia every time we play them, we have to play for 80 minutes. It has to be a disciplined approach and we let ourselves down there.''

Pritchard scored a consolation with three minutes on the clock to ensure the match ended on a better note. If they can play like they did in the first half, another World Cup title is not out of reach.

Australia 32 (Cooper Cronk, Greg Inglis, Brett Morris, Luke Lewis, Darius Boyd, Justin Hodges tries; Cameron Smith 5 gls) New Zealand 12 (Josh Hoffman, Frank Pritchard tries; Shaun Johnson 2 gls). HT: 6-6.

- APNZ

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