Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Shaun Johnson denies Kangaroos have mental edge

Shaun Johnson is adamant that the Kangaroos don't have a mental advantage over his Kiwis despite losing their third straight against the Aussie this morning. Photo / Photosport
Shaun Johnson is adamant that the Kangaroos don't have a mental advantage over his Kiwis despite losing their third straight against the Aussie this morning. Photo / Photosport

Shaun Johnson denies the Kangaroos have a psychological hex over the Kiwis, despite another trans tasman victory on Sunday morning (NZT).

Australia won 14-8 in Coventry, with a late rally from the Kiwis making the contest appear closer than it probably was.

Jordan Rapana crossed in the 78th minute, before a last roll of the dice saw Johnson come desperately close, as he cut through but was held up over the line.

But for most of the match the Kangaroos were in control, and ultimately deserved their third successive victory over the New Zealand side.

But Johnson denied the Australians now have the mental edge.

"No [they don't]- and that is probably what has come out of today for us," said Johnson.

"We definitely don't think they have that mental advantage over us.

It's just a game where we weren't good enough again. They executed when they had to and we defended very well in the second half. We didn't let a try in and we were able to score. What ifs, missed opportunities, whatever...they were the better team today."

However, like many of his teammates, Johnson stressed the ongoing improvement in this Kiwis side. That's a valid point. New Zealand's attacking work was mixed, as they failed to take advantage of the few opportunities that came their way. But they showed genuine grit to stay in the match, especially as Australia led 10-0 after only 14 minutes, whereas in Perth they just fell away.

"We definitely feel like we are improving," said Johnson. "If you look back to where we were in Perth, they did a job on us that day. There were areas of the game that we didn't quite get right but generally we are heading in the right direction."

Johnson had a mixed night. He was much more involved than in Perth, and helped to spark the late flurry. But he also misjudged some fifth tackle kicks, especially in the first half, which meant the Kiwis couldn't force a repeat set.

"This is a bit of a different interview if I get the ball down at the end there," said Johnson.

"I felt I was in the game the whole time tonight. I was looking for opportunities. They are a very good side and sometimes it takes until the 70th or 75th minutes to find a gap or exploit something so I will keep sniffing, I won't go away."

The Kiwis travel to Edinburgh today, where they will be based for a few nights ahead of their clash with Scotland on Friday. The Bravehearts put up a better than expected fight against England today, holding a shock 8-0 lead after 25 minutes before the English began to reel them in and eventually won 38-12.

The Kiwis have to win in Workington - and win well - to maintain their hopes of qualifying for the final, though Johnson discounted talk of focusing on the margin.

"We are looking forward to getting up there and playing against Scotland, it's going to be another really good game," said Johnson. "[But] we need to win first, we need to play well. You don't want to limp into the final with a poor performance anyway. We need to prepare well, have another good week and we all want to get better. "

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