Kiwis 0 Kangaroos 16

Dreams die hard. The Kiwis improbable streak is over, after a 16-0 loss to the Kangaroos last night.

Stephen Kearney's team had been looking for a historic fourth successive win over Australia, but it never looked likely and only some resolute defence from the Kiwis prevented a much more damaging scoreline.

Australia were too big, too strong, too fast and too polished. They consistently won the collisions, with their giants across the field. Their kick returns epitomised their dominance; Blake Ferguson, followed by Josh Dugan, followed by Semi Radradra, followed by Greg Inglis - crash, bang, wallop.

Whereas the Kiwis, with their lightweight back line options like Jason Nightingale and Gerard Beale were consistently bent backwards, which affected their momentum.
When they did achieve field position, they rarely threatened Australia's well organised defence. There was a lack of creativity - as expected with the changes to the spine - and little variety on attack.


As it happened: Kiwis v Kangaroos

That was the much disappointing aspect of a flat Kiwis display - they barely fired a shot and only got going in the last 20 minutes of the match. Their much vaunted pack was dominated, with Matt Scott and James Tamou particularly impressive.
Shaun Johnson had a mixed night, struggling to impose himself on the game while fellow half Kodi Nikorima spent most of his night defending.

It's hard to criticise Stephen Kearney - given what he has achieved - but some of his decisions will come under the microscope today.

The decision to use Tohu Harris in the centres instead of a specialist like Brad Takairangi backfired, as Harris struggled with the sheer pace of Greg Inglis. And the sight of Kenny Bromwich at dummy half - the Melbourne Storm back rower was a late change before kick off - was bemusing, especially with Issac Luke at home on the couch in Auckland.

It was always going to be an uphill struggle for the Kiwis. It's hard enough playing Australia, but with each player they lost in the buildup to this test match their chances seemed to diminish slightly. They had a spine they had never played together, including a two back rowers sharing the No9 jersey, a centre at fullback and a hooker at five eight.

The Kiwis enjoyed the better start - gaining a couple of cheap penalties - and had a chance to take the ascendancy when Semi Radradra was sin binned for a professional foul on Kevin Proctor. But they stumbled; they didn't complete the next set and subsequent penalties saw Australia gain the momentum.

The Kiwis were out muscled for the rest of the half, as the Kangaroos enjoyed a significant territorial advantage. They opened the scoring through Darius Boyd in the 15th minute, with the former Newcastle Knight - who received rousing jeers before kickoff - squeezing over on the right edge.

There was more to come, with Ferguson, Michael Morgan and Matt Scott going close before Inglis scored seven minutes before halftime. Harris is one of the best defenders in the NRL, but was left clutching at thin air after a classic Inglis in and away.

The Australian dominance was underlined when they almost manufactured a try right on the halftime hooter, with Cooper Cronk centimetres away from forcing the ball.

It continued into the second half, as the Kangaroos rolled down the field at will; at times it felt like they like had 10 forwards on the field. The Kiwis lifted in the second half and received opportunities, especially with some Australian errors close to their line, but lacked the finesse to take them, before a Ferguson try on the whistle.

Kangaroos 16 (D Boyd, G Inglis, B Ferguson tries; J Thurston goal, C Smith goal)
Kiwis 0
Halftime: 10-0