AAMI Park in Melbourne was the venue for the Australian Kangaroos against the New Zealand Kiwis in the rematch of the World Cup semi-final where the sides were separated by just two points in a sensational game, the Australians snatching the win on that occasion.
The Kangaroos are ranked number one in the world against the side ranked second as the top two went head-to-head in the Pacific Championships as a dress rehearsal for next weekend’s Pacific Cup final, and the right to take the momentum into the last game of the series.
Australia were strong favourites for the win, but New Zealand would surely have plenty to say about the outcome.
It was an error strewn opening eight minutes, but the deadlock was broken through a sensational try as Valentine Holmes chased a James Tedesco grubber to the right corner to beat the New Zealand chasers and ground centimetres short of the dead ball line. Holmes converted from the touchline for a 6-0 lead.
On eighteen the Kiwi’s crossed the whitewash for the fist time when Briton Nikora collected a gentle grubber to goal from Jerome Hughes, the second rower improving the angle and gifting a simple conversion kick to Jamayne Isaako, the sides locked together after a quarter of the game.
A brilliant first touch of the game for substitute Lindsay Collins as he took an Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow offload as New Zealand made a meal of a high kick to the corner. Holmes was on target again for a 12-6 lead after twenty-three.
Dylan Edwards spilled a high kick on twenty-five, but his teammates repelled the Kiwi attack and kept their line intact. On twenty-nine Isaako went close but grounded the ball on the touch line after diving over in the corner.
Australia surged downfield and on the half hour fast hands from Australia saw Collins diving over off a Harry Grant pass for his second of the evening. Holmes made it three from three for an 18-6 lead, Australia pulling clear with some great rugby league.
Two minutes before the interval Ronaldo Mulitano jumped high to take a Hughes high kick towards the posts, landing and grounding in a single movement to reduce the arrears. Isaako added the conversion as the half time hooter sounded, New Zealand into the interval training by six points.
Normal service was resumed on fifty with fast hands to the left from Australia which saw Edwards take a Tabuai-Fidow pass and run fifteen to the line to score without a Kiwi hand laid upon him. Holmes was on target again for 24-12.
New Zealand gifted Holmes a fifth goal of the evening after blocking the Australian defender with ball in hand. Holmes drifted the ball between the uprights from twenty metres out. The game now seemingly beyond New Zealand.
On seventy, Fa’amanu Brown scooted from acting half back to go under the Australian defenders and ground under the posts. Isaako added the conversion, but the Kiwis were still eight points adrift.
Two minutes from time Australia went in again with Ben Hunt scooting from acting half back for a carbon copy of Brown´s try eight minutes earlier. Holmes added the conversion for 32-18 but the Kangaroos weren´t finished when Cameron Murray took a Hynes pass to go thirty metres to dive over in the corner. Holmes was wide left with his kick but it was a comprehensive 36-18 win for Australia.
As a result of tonight’s performance, Australia have now established themselves as strong favourites to lift the Cup next weekend and New Zealand now know that they will need to show a big improvement, especially in defence, if they are to provide worthy opposition and potentially an upset.
Australia: Tedesco, Edwards (T), Tabuai-Fidow, Staggs, Holmes (T, 6G), Munster, Cherry-Evans, Trbojevic J, Hunt (T), Flegler, Murray (T), Cotter, Yeo. Subs: Grant, Collins (2T), Carrigan, Hynes. 18th Man: Martin.
New Zealand: Nicoll-Klokstad, Mulitalo (T), Timoko, Manu, Isaako (3G), Brown (T), Hughes, Fisher-Harris, Foran, Leota, Papali’i, Nikora (T), Tapine. Subs: Brown, Asofa-Solomona, Neame, Thompson. 18th Man: Whyte.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-6, 10-6, 12-6, 16-6, 18-6 18-10, 18-12 : HT: 22-12, 24-12, 26-12, 26-16, 26-18, 30-18, 32-18 , 36-18 :FT.
Lead Exchanges: Kangaroos - Square - Kangaroos.
Referee: Adam Gee.