Another Kiwis capitulation on English soil
Monday morning was an eerie repeat of the 2013 World Cup final at Old Trafford. An iconic stadium, a great crowd, a big occasion - and the game was over with one hour still to play. The Kangaroos scored their third try in the 21st minute and there was no way back for the Kiwis on Monday morning. It was hugely disappointing; not many expected the depleted New Zealand side to beat the Australians, but most people hoped for a close contest. Unfortunately, the lessons of 2013 - the last big occasion on English soil - were not absorbed.
Kidwell on steep learning curve
David Kidwell will be retained as Kiwis coach - it's too close to the next World Cup to make a change - but the tournament underlined what a steep learning curve he faces. As a rookie coach it was always going to be difficult but Kidwell was guilty of making some curious and unnecessary decisions, and defying conventional league wisdom. Like overusing Jason Taumalolo for most of the tournament, keeping him on the field for 70 minutes or more, when the Cowboys had shown he is best employed for 50-60 minutes. Or persisting in making interchanges at strange times, as in both the Scotland match and the final he subbed a player with less than two minutes before half time. And the mind games before the decider, when he refused to name his team, or apparently tell his players until the night before the game, was an unnecessary disruption.
Leuluai's absence a bridge too far
If anyone still underrates the ability and importance of Thomas Leuluai, take another look at Monday's final. Without Leuluai - who broke his jaw against Scotland - the left edge of the Kiwis defence simply fell apart. They looked vulnerable every time Australia attacked down that side, and almost all of the Kangaroos tries were scored down that flank. Leuluai was the glue that held the defence together on that side of the field, and they couldn't cope in his absence. It's a reason why he will still be a contender for Kiwi's squads next year, despite his move to Wigan.
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