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

Rugby League: Kiwis draw with Scotland

Take a moment to read this carefully, and don't choke on your lunch. The Kiwis have drawn 18-18 with Scotland - and came very close to an embarrassing defeat.

New Zealand was six minutes away from going out of the tournament, before two late Gerard Beale tries took them into an 18-12 lead. But still there was another lapse, with Scotland crossing in the79th minute to tie up the scores.

It was far too close to comfort for the entire match, as the Kiwis struggled to establish any dominance. They lacked energy and accuracy against a fired up Scottish side, who were - let's not beat around the bush - given a leg up by an erratic performance from Ben Cummins and the match officials.

The result means that New Zealand will make the final if England loses to Australia on Monday (NZT), but any other result (England win or draw) will see the Kiwis out of the tournament.

The match was played in horrible conditions. It's fine bringing a game to the heartland, but playing at a ground that is predominantly used as a speedway ground was questionable.

Workington had their glory days in the 1950s and the ground felt like it hadn't been improved since then, as almost half the crowd sat in the rain. The local club play in the third tier of British league, so bringing such an important game here was a strange call.

The Kiwis started poorly, and got worse. They had the benefit of a strong wind, but couldn't get any momentum. Referee Cummins set the tone for an erratic performance early on, with some dubious penalty calls, and the Kiwis didn't receive a penalty until the 31st minute. It continues into the second half, and felt like the Australian referee - if there was any doubt - tended to side with the underdogs. The best example was a hit on Thomas Leuluai - which broke his jaw - going unpunished.

But New Zealand were also their own worst enemies. They struggled with ball control, and didn't use the strong wind to their advantage in the first half. When they did make inroads, they tried to go wide too early, when long passing was almost impossible in the blustery conditions. There was also a lack of support for the forwards, which made them easy targets for the eager Scottish defence.

And mistakes - boy o boy the mistakes! Adam Blair trying an ambitious offload 30 metres from his own line early in the set after the Kiwis first try, David Fusitua allowing him to be pushed over the sideline after a kamikaze kick return and Shaun Johnson inexplicably kicking out on the full.

Tribute also needs to be paid to a courageous Scottish performance, particularly on defence. They managed numerous try saving tackles, with Beale, Solomone Kata, Jesse Bromwich and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak all being denied from close range.

The Kiwis opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, with Shaun Johnson and Tohu Harris combining to put Fusitua in for his first Kiwis try. They couldn't capitalize on it though, and Lewis Tierney replied for Scotland. Fusitua got his second midway through the second half, before Scotland's Ben Hellewell sent the home crowd into hysteria with a long range try. Danny Brough converted a controversial penalty soon afterwards to take Scotland into the lead, which they held until Beale's late brace.

New Zealand 18 (G Beale 2,D Fusitua, 2 tries; I Luke goal)
Scotland 18 (L Tierney, B Hellewell, Euan Aitken tries D Brough 3 goals)
Halftime: 6-4​

- NZ Herald

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