The Kiwis have plenty to work on, but they’ll be pleased to have kept the Cook Islands to nil today in their Rugby League World Cup warm-up match in Doncaster. After leading 24-0 at half-time, the Kiwis ran out 50-0 winners.
Among the standouts for New Zealand were Issac Luke, Sam Kasiano and Bryson Goodwin, who scored two tries in his first game for the Kiwis since 2009. One of Goodwin’s efforts, involving beautiful in-and-away footwork, saw him score directly from a scrum.
“The guys are certainly better for a run,” said the Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney. “There were parts of our game that were a bit rusty out there, but it was a good start for us.
“The improvement areas are in both defence and attack, to be fair, and given that some of the guys haven’t played in six weeks it was a good performance, but our focus for this week is to improve both areas.”
Kieran Foran, the Kiwis vice-captain, was brought into the team as a late replacement for Thomas Leuluai, who rested a groin strain. Foran was due to sit this match out, along with other Kiwi players who were involved in the NRL grand final, but instead combined in the halves with Shaun Johnson for just the second time, following April’s test against the Kangaroos in Canberra. Johnson’s pace was on show as he scored from 60m in the second half.
The Kiwis bench for this game – which wasn’t an official test match – was extended before kick-off with the inclusion of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. He got to wear the Kiwis jersey for the first time, playing 10mins at the end.
‘Man of the Match’ awards were announced for each team and went to Tinirau Arona for the Cook Islands and Issac Luke for the Kiwis. Luke was a constant threat at dummy-half and created one of the tries of the match, after taking a quick penalty tap, scampering 40metres, and throwing a long ball for Jason Nightingale to score in the right hand corner.
The game, played in front of 4,638, was the first match since the NRL regular season for many of the Kiwis, including their captain Simon Mannering.
Before the match, the Kiwis delivered a new haka, led by Issac Luke. Called Te Iwi Kiwi, the haka was created by members of the Kiwi team along with a cultural advisor.
The Kiwis travel to Liverpool tonight (Sunday) and start their World Cup defence on Sunday against Samoa at Warrington.
New Zealand 50, Cook Islands 0
Kiwis 50 (Bryson Goodwin 2, Jason Nightingale 2, Shaun Johnson, Elijah Taylor, Manu Vatuvei, Kevin Locke tries. Penalty try. Johnson 4, Goodwin 2, Locke 1 goals), Cook Islands 0
Kiwis: Josh Hoffman, Jason Nightingale, Krisnan Inu, Dean Whare, Manu Vatuvei, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich, Issac Luke, Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard, Simon Mannering, Elijah Taylor. Interchange: Greg Eastwood, Ben Matulino, Alex Glenn, Kevin Locke, Bryson Goodwin, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Coach: Stephen Kearney.
Cook Islands: Drury Low, Jordan Rapana, Anthony Gelling, Keith Lulia, Dominique Peyroux, Brad Takairangi, Isaac John, Zane Tetevano, Daniel Fepuleai, Joseph Matapuku, Zeb Taia, Tupou Sopoaga, Tinirau Arona. Interchange: Hikule’o Malu, Adam Tangata, Jonathon Ford, Chris Taripo, Lulia Lulia, Sam Mataora. Coach: David Fairleigh.
Referee: Phil Bentham (England).