League: Good mix of artillery bodes well for final

By Michael Brown

Elijah Taylor. Photo / Getty Images
Elijah Taylor. Photo / Getty Images

This year's Anzac test followed a well-worn script as Australia continued their dominance in the one-off match into a 15th year, but something else happened that has given the Kiwis some confidence heading into this weekend's World Cup final.

New Zealand haven't won the Anzac test since beating Australia 22-16 at North Harbour Stadium in 1998 and it remains their only victory in 14 meetings between the two teams in the annual fixture.

This year the Kangaroos won 32-12 in Canberra but they came under considerable pressure in the first half and were thankful to see the video referee rule against four possible tries (two were questionable decisions).

Australia rolled over New Zealand in the second half, scoring four tries in nine minutes at one stage as the Kiwis lost their composure and couldn't keep hold of the ball.

"If you look back to this year's Anzac test, we were stripped of superstars," utility Elijah Taylor said.

"We didn't have Simon Mannering, Sonny Bill Williams, Benji Marshall, Thomas Leuluai, Greg Eastwood, Jeremy Smith.

"But for that first 40 minutes guys kept showing up. If we did that for the whole 80, it might have been a different story.

"Now look at the artillery we have [for the World Cup]. Sonny, Simon, Issac Luke, Frank Pritchard, Dean Whare. It's a good mixture at the moment. We have players who do the grunt, the flashy players and also speed and experience. There's a good mix, good chemistry.

"Everybody knows how good Australia are. We can upset them by playing a bit of footy but also a controlled style. If we complete our sets and stop giving away penalties, we will be a hard team to stop. It shapes up to be a great final."

New Zealand will always struggle in the Anzac test or one-off internationals against Australia at the end of the year because of State of Origin and the fact the Kangaroos build up key combinations by playing and training together for a month every year.

New Zealand don't have that luxury and there's little coach Stephen Kearney can do in the four days they get together for the Anzac test.

The difference over an extended campaign is time together and this is borne out by the fact the Kiwis won the 2005 Tri Nations and 2010 Four Nations as well as the 2008 World Cup.

Crucially, halves Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson have now played seven tests together - although it pales in comparison to the number of times opposites Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston have lined up alongside each other for both state and country.

"Our mindset from the start is we are here to win it," Taylor said. "We are not going to train so hard and do all the preparation to let it go. We are not here to make up the numbers. We really want to bring the trophy back to New Zealand."

Taylor remembers the first time it ventured to New Zealand when the Kiwis won in 2008. He was an 18-year-old playing for the Warriors in the under-20s competition at the time and parked himself on his couch to watch the final with his brothers.

"I saw every second of that game and I was so nervous," he said. "I was screaming, yelling, throwing things everywhere afterwards. It was a great feeling. It's what I want to be a part of this time around."

- APNZ

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