Rabbitohs skipper Greg Inglis bagged two tries to bring up his 30th try for Australia as the Kangaroos ran out 26-6 winners over the New Zealand Kiwis off the back of a disciplined second half performance.
Isaac Luke got us underway at NIB Stadium and the opening sets between the Kangaroos and Kiwis were strongly contested, culminating in a high shot by Waerea-Hargreaves on Thurston. The penalty found the Australians with the first obvious chance of the match. However, the Kangaroos were met by some determined defence and were unable to capitalize on the early high shot.
Another high shot on Valentine Holmes followed shortly and Darius Boyd would make it count this time in the 8th minute as the Kangaroos shifted the ball quickly to the left to open a gap in the New Zealand defence. Thurston couldn’t convert as his conversion attempt fell short onto the crossbar.
It wouldn’t take long for the Australians to find the line again through Rabbitohs Skipper Greg Inglis. A strong run from Inglis on the left set Valentine Holmes free who put in a crafty boot which rebounded off a New Zealand defender and back into the waiting arms of GI who then produced an acrobatic finish in the corner. Thurston again couldn’t find his bearings in windy conditions and the Australians would hold the lead at 8-0 after 15 minutes.
After falling behind to two quick tries the Kiwis lifted their aggression to hit back through Kevin Proctor. Following a Josh Dugan knock on the Kiwis would probe at the Australian try line until a short pass from Shaun Johnson sent a storming Proctor through the line to score. The conversion was good by Isaac Luke and after 23 minutes the score was tight at 8-6.
Both teams found their rhythm after the Kiwis' try and the crowd at NIB Stadium were treated to some entertaining back and forth football filled with hard running and strong tackles. The game would continue with the big hits for the next 10 minutes but the Kiwis looked to be gaining the upper hand, especially so after a Michael Morgan error during a play the ball. Shaun Johnson would continually target Valentine Holmes with well weighted bombs but it wasn’t enough for the Kiwis to overtake the Australians as they produced some great defence.
The Australians took up the challenge and matched the Kiwis for physicality until the first half came to an end with the Kangaroos leading 8-6. It was a menacing turnaround from the Kiwis after leaking two early tries and provided an extremely entertaining first half.
The second half started where it left off with some aggressive play but a Matt Gillett loose carry gifted the Kiwis an early sniff at the Australian line. Their attack came to nothing but shortly afterwards we saw a similar error by the Kiwis, committed by Kenny-Dowall, result in a try as Thurston set Inglis rampaging down the left wing before passing to Holmes to finish the Australian movement. Thurston managed to convert this time and the Kangaroos pushed their lead to 14-6 after 45 minutes.
The Australians continued to grow into the match and regain the dominance they displayed in the opening sets of the first half. With the men in green and gold having most of the possession for the next 15 minutes after their try the Kiwis were forced into long periods of defence. Apart from a Marty Taupau line break the Kiwis didn’t look to threaten the Australians. Adding to the Kangaroos dominance was the Kiwis inability to find an effective 5th tackle option as Johnson made several ineffective attempts at running on the last tackle.
The New Zealand Kiwis couldn’t find an answer to the Kangaroos discipline. The continuous pressure from the Australians resulted in Greg Inglis bagging his 30th try of his International career after a Cameron Smith grubber rebounded off a Kiwis defender and sat dead for Inglis to ground. Thurston converted and the Australians found themselves with a strong 20-6 lead with 10 minutes left in the game.
New Zealand couldn’t muster a solid attempt at the Kangaroos line in the second half – only coming close through an ambitious Solomone Kata effort which was promptly ruled a no try.
The Australians put the game beyond doubt in the 77th minute when Boyd Cordner barged his way through the New Zealand defensive line from a Thurston short ball to score. Thurston converted with ease to push the score line out to 26-6 and finish a dominant and disciplined second half performance from the Kangaroos.
Australia 26 (2 Inglis, Boyd, Holmes, Cordner tries; 3 Thurston goals)
New Zealand 6 (Proctor try; Luke goal)