By John Davidson, Date: 25/10/14
New Zealand has pulled off a big upset with a sensational 30-12 victory over Australia in the Four Nations opener.
The Kiwis ran rampant over a hapless Kangaroos side, who lost Greg Inglis and Daly Cherry-Evans to injuries during the match. Shaun Johnson ran the show for New Zealand and inspired his team to a famous 18-point triumph.
Off the back of a tremendous forward display from the Kiwis, the Australians had few answers to contain the rampaging men in black.
It looked like it was going to be a very one-sided match when the Kangaroos scored just a few minutes after kick off. Gerard Beale knocked the ball on and then Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk combined to set up Beau Scott for an easy try.
It was a poor start from the Kiwis but they quickly snapped out of their funk, Johnson nailing at excellent 40/20 11 minutes in. They should have been on the scoreboard on the following play, after a terrific cut-out pass from Kieran Foran put Jason Nightingale in acres of space, but the Dragons winger amazingly dropped the ball mere millimetres from planting it down.
Australia might have been lucky to survive on that occasion but they weren’t soon after. A bullocking run from Kevin Proctor, with a great fend against Cherry-Evans, helped tie the scores up at 6-6.
Off the back of a penalty Greg Inglis put the Kangaroos back in front at the 21-minute mark. From five metres out Inglis threw a dummy and sneaked over.
New Zealand almost hit back, again through Proctor, but the play was called back from a forward pass from Johnson.
Inglis turned villain on 29 minutes when he lost the ball in a tackle near his line. The Kiwis made him pay, Lewis Brown carving up some soft defence with a show and go to score.
The Kangaroos then copped another blow with Cherry-Evans forced off from the field with a hip injury. Australia continued to suffer from some poor handling and the half ended tied up at 12-all. They started the second half with Dylan Walker moved to fullback and Inglis also in the dressing rooms.
A bit of Johnson brilliance put New Zealand ahead soon after the start of the second 40. The electric halfback grubbered, the ball richochting back into his hands, and with a little jig against the last defender he was over.
The Kiwis dramatically went further ahead just minutes later through Dean Whare. The Penrith centre flew acrobatically to take a splendid bomb from Johnson and get the ball down. This put New Zealand ahead 24-12 with 29 minutes left and they were flying.
A major upset beckoned. The Kangaroos tried to get back into the match but the Kiwis were offering little opportunities.
And then Nightengale, who made a terrible error in the first half, atoned on 68 minutes to finally put the Aussies to the sword. Walker knocked the ball on and Nightingale scored in the score to seal the historic victory.
The Kangaroos were bullied in the pack and questions will be asked over some of Tim Sheens’ selections. But that won’t take the gloss off a terrific win from New Zealand that was much deserved.
The victory puts the Kiwis in the box seat for a spot in the final and heaps pressure on the Australians. The defeat should serve as a wake-up call that the under-strength Kangaroos can’t rest on their past laurels.
Australia (12) 12 Tries: Scott, Inglis Goals: Smith (2)
New Zealand (12) 30 Tries: Proctor, Brown, Johnson, Whare, Nightingale Goals: Johnson (5)