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

League: Kiwis thunderstruck at Anfield

Australian centre Josh Dugan offloads as he's tackled by New Zealand's Tohu Harris and Jesse Bromwich. Photo / Photosport.
Australian centre Josh Dugan offloads as he's tackled by New Zealand's Tohu Harris and Jesse Bromwich. Photo / Photosport.

A stadium steward summed up the prevailing mood at Anfield on Sunday (Monday NZT) as the Kangaroos ran riot in the first half.

Almost all of the 40,000 in attendance were backing the Kiwis from the kick off, with the English fans keen to cheer on the underdog.

But their support was in vain, as New Zealand was blown off the park in a one sided first half.

"This is a farce", said the bemused steward, as he watched the men in black and white make error after error, while the Kangaroos effortlessly switched through the gears.

The crowd was a mix of fans drawn from the surrounding league strongholds like Wigan, Leeds, St Helens and Warrington, and curious Liverpool locals eager to sample the first league match played at the venue in more than 20 years.

But they didn't see much of a contest. The Kiwis defended the famous Kop end in the first half, but couldn't generate any of the passion and intensity that characterizes that famous grandstand on big football nights.

The Kiwis started slowly, and just got worse. After Blake Ferguson strolled over untouched in the third minute, AC/DC's Thunderstruck was piped through the stadium speakers. Thunderstruck indeed.

The Kiwis were shell shocked, and never really recovered. They had a brief period of possession and terrority, but couldn't get any dividend as the Kangaroos held firm.

Then the onslaught started, as the Kiwis kept coughing up the ball, and the Australians profited.

The first half seemed a blur; New Zealand doing endless kickoffs and dropouts, and the Kangaroos laying siege to their line. This ground has seen some one-sided contests - especially in the glory Liverpool days of the 1980s with Kenny Daglish, Ian Rush, John Barnes et al - but surely few like this, on such a big occasion.

By the time Trent Merrin scored Australia's third try in the 21st minute the result was beyond doubt, though the crowd never stopped encouraging the Kiwis.

"C'mon lad, get into it," yelled one, encouraging Shaun Johnson on a particular play. But the Australians were peerless; they dominated the ruck, offloaded at will and cruelly exposed the Kiwis left edge. Only some desperate defence prevented a more embarrassing score line, as twice the Kangaroos were held up over the try line.

The Kiwis also got no favours from the officials - with several contentious calls - but that was a symptom of Australia's dominance, rather than a catalyst for it.

New Zealand rallied in the second half - finally - with two tries to Jordan Kahu - which showed their fighting spirit was still intact. But their belief might be shot, as they wonder how this green and gold machine can be stopped in 12 months time at the World Cup.

Several of the Kiwis couldn't bare to watch as the Kangaroos were presented with their medals, turning their back to the stage.

"We need to look at ourselves as a whole group," said coach David Kidwell. "It's not any individual, it's a team. It's a team game. We win as a team, we lose as a team. Internally we are very strong. We have to make sure that in the next test we play we don't put out a performance like that again."

Autex - Proud sponsors of New Zealand rugby league since 1981

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 08 Dec 2016 14:14:20 Processing Time: 502ms