Rugby League: Scotland key to final hopes for Kiwis

By Michael Burgess, Michael Burgess in Coventry

Adam Blair is keen to play against Scotland next weekend. Photo / AP
Adam Blair is keen to play against Scotland next weekend. Photo / AP

The Kiwis face a complicated week ahead in the Four Nations after their 14-8 loss to the Kangaroos.

A win yesterday would have sealed a place in the final but the Kiwis were never really in it despite almost conjuring a late comeback.

Australia were deserved winners, and have now all but qualified for the final at Anfield on November 21 (NZT). The Kiwis hope to be there but need to wrestle with some permutations to secure their spot.

The first task is to beat Scotland which, on the evidence of Sunday morning, won't be that easy. The Bravehearts were impressive against England in the first half and led until five minutes before halftime. But they were hammered in the penalty count (17-7) and also had Danny Brough sent to the sin bin as England turned on the style in the second half to win 38-12.

The Kiwis will surely be too good for Scotland but they also need to prevail by a hefty margin to give themselves the best possible chance.

A victory by 31 points or more will take the Kiwis ahead of the English on points differential. Then they will await the outcome of England's clash with Australia on Monday morning.

It may mean Kiwis coach David Kidwell won't rest many of his first choice players. Senior players Issac Luke and Adam Blair indicated they wanted to play Scotland but surely Jason Taumalolo will get a rest.

Yesterday's match was difficult to assess. It was significantly better than the last transtasman clash in Perth, where the Kiwis were thumped 26-6. They were in the game yesterday for the whole 80 minutes and restricted Australia to two penalty goals in the second half. But aside from the last five minutes, New Zealand struggled to create much on attack.

"Test match football is about taking your opportunities and I thought at times we didn't," said Kidwell.

"Towards the end, we started playing the type of football we know we can play. We just have to make sure we take our opportunities in attack and defence."

There was no lack of effort from the Kiwis but the workload on defence took its toll when they regained possession. After being outplayed for most of the match, the Kiwis came alive in the last 10 minutes and threatened to steal a result.

But the damage had been done, with tries to Blake Ferguson (10th minute) and Johnathan Thurston (14th) giving the Kangaroos a lead they never relinquished.

"We worked really hard again, like we have been the whole tour," said Kiwis captain Jesse Bromwich. "Just that 10 minute spell really cost us. That's where we need to improve - our defence around that time of the game wasn't up to scratch. But our scramble was good, our goal line defence was good. We are definitely building and improving, that's for sure. We improved from the Perth test to the England test and [yesterday] we improved again."

Autex - Proud sponsors of New Zealand league since 1981.

- NZ Herald

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