New Zealand Kiwis capped off a stunning opening night to the Four Nations series in Brisbane with a humbling win over the Australian Kangaroos, 30 -12.
After suspended Hooker Isaac Luke led the Haka, the Kiwis were rocked early by the Kangaroos, Gerard Beale coughed up an early kick and was swiftly punished as Beau Scott tore through a gaping hole and scored.
Holding off further onslaught, Shaun Johnson managed to kick a 40/20 and Kieran Foran swiftly threw a wild cut-out pass across the field to Jason Nightingale, who dented his ‘best finisher in the game’ moniker by dropping the ball cold on the line.
An error and penalty gave New Zealand great field position, and Kevin Proctor charged over to lift New Zealand onto the score board at 6-6.
Greg Inglis saw his chance to make the highlight reel and sliced across to punt the Roos back in front, while a forward pass from Johnson denies Proctor a double.
Utilizing the massive bench of Tohu Harris, Lewis Brown, Greg Eastwood and Marty Taupau allowed New Zealand to continue to pound away at the Australian defence, and once Greg Inglis turned the ball over as he was rag-dolled into the turf, there was a shift in the momentum, as soon after Lewis Brown darted from dummy half to put New Zealand over again. 12 – 12
The Aussies started a fight back; Michael Jennings shot through the line but was cut down and Cherry-Evans failed to execute on the follow up play, going off injured right after. Were Australia slowly coming apart at the seams?
It certainly appeared so, as Inglis remained in the dressing rooms after half time, complaining that he was ‘feeling sick’, forcing Dylan Walker to fullback. With Robbie Farah in the halves and Thaiday in the front row, this team was looking discombobulated. Not at all its confident self.
As for the Kiwis, they had Johnson and Foran performing like freaks in the halves, causing carnage with their kicking game and totally improvised game plan. Johnson regathered his own grubber inside the opposition 20 meters and scored himself.
Soon after Johnson again dazzled the 47,000 strong Suncorp crowd by shanking the ball across field, and right into Dean Whare’s soaring figure. The score was now 24 – 12 and Australia were firing from all cylinders, yet unable to do anything about it.
When they tried to trap New Zealand on their line, Pita Hiku ran it out 40 meters. When they came with another surge, Foran diffused the situation and sprinted back up the field with the ball.
Another New Zealand try was disallowed due to Jason Taumalolo performing a shoulder charge on Cooper Cronk as he contested a kick, yet even when Johnson knocked on, Australia were far too frazzled to build any momentum.
Johnson delivered a final mega-bomb that bounced off Dylan Walker’s chest and the ball found Jason Nightingale, who made sure to hold onto it this time.
As the final whistle blew and the Kiwi’s celebrated their win, the Four Nations series seems a much more open competition than previously thought, and the stakes have risen exponentially for the Kangaroos to make sure they still win it.