New Zealand has gone down in the marquee match at the Rugby League World Cup Nines on Friday night, losing 25-12 to Australia.
The Kiwis never recovered from a poor start, while Australia had too much flair and skill in an entertaining contest at Bankwest Stadium.
David Fifita was outstanding for the home side, along with Wade Graham and Josh Addo-Carr.
The result means New Zealand need to win both their games — against Papua New Guinea and the USA — to qualify for the semifinals on Saturday night.
It was a poor first day for New Zealand, with the Kiwi Ferns also beaten convincingly, losing 22-8 in their transtasman clash.
The Australian men's team started with four play makers and only one recognised forward, Tyson Frizell, on the field.
The unusual recipe worked, as Mal Meninga's team scored after 35 seconds, after Wade Graham sent Storm speedster Josh Addo-Carr away down the sideline.
The same combination extended Australia's lead, with the winger chasing down a precise kick from the Australian captain.
Johnson created a try for Jamayne Isaako, but a Kyle Feldt bonus zone try gave Australia a commanding 15-6 halftime lead.
A Mitchell Moses 20-40 kick — the first of the tournament — provided the impetus for David Fifita to crash over, and seal the result.
Isaako scored his second, again made by Johnson, before Australia crossed on the hooter.
The shock of the night was provided by the Cook Islands, who upset the Tonga Invitational side 30-7.
Centre Kayal Iro, the son of Kiwis legend Kevin Iro, chipped in with two first half tries, while Brad Takairangi was also prominent for the Kukis.
Tonga were highly favoured, with a number of big names throughout the NRL, but were badly off their game.
Their opponents controlled possession superbly, and mistakes and indiscipline meant that Tonga had virtually no possession.
The Cook Islands led 14-0 at halftime, and an early try in the second half killed any chance of a comeback from the men in red.
Tonga finally opened their account with two minutes to play, in only their second completed set of the match.
The other all-Pacific clash saw Samoa trump Fiji 32-15, with Penrith winger Brian To'o crossing for two tries.
The Samoans led 17-4 at halftime and offered a blend of structure and flair, with controlled offloads, as they fed off Fijian mistakes.
In other matches England had little trouble dispatching Wales 25-4, while Lebanon edged France 12-8 in the first match of the tournament.
New Zealand face Papua New Guinea and the United States on Saturday, while the Kiwi Ferns face England and Papua New Guinea.
In the women's competition Australia provided the standout display, with their dominant win over the Kiwi Ferns.
Australia opened the scoring after just 40 seconds, with a five point try under the posts, before a New Zealand handling error allowed Ali Brigginshaw to set up their second try three minutes later.
A third try, after the Ferns gifted possession to the home side, left an imposing 15-0 halftime deficit.
A clever Brigginshaw solo effort early in the second half extinguished any hope of a recovery, but Atawhai Tupea and Jules Newman scored late consolation tries.
Day 1 results:
Lebanon 12 France 8
England 25 Wales 4
Cook Islands 30 Tonga Invitational side 7
Samoa 32 Fiji 15
Australia 25 New Zealand 12
Papua New Guinea 27 USA 10
England 25 Papua New Guinea 4
Australia 22 New Zealand 8