The Kangaroos expected the Kiwis to come out firing but still got caught in the blocks early in the Trans-Tasman Test, Australia's captain and coach revealed after a 30-18 win at Allianz Stadium.
Coach Tim Sheens and skipper Cam Smith both said they were expecting the Kiwis to start with all guns blazing, with a team containing several debutants and lots of players in good form at club level, and admitted the Australians should have been able to contain them better early.
"We said before the game they would [make us work hard]," Sheens said.
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"We predicted what they'd do but to stop them doing it was the hard thing. We stemmed the tide after half-time and played a much better second half."
Sheens said that similar to the tough 28-20 opening World Cup match against England, the side gave away a soft try early that handed the opposition an energy boost.
Smith also said he wasn't shocked with how the Kiwis came out in the first half.
"All the players that were in their team were in good form at their respective clubs and we showed a lot of respect to their side tonight but we were out-enthused early," Smith said.
"I could name my [club] teammate Jesse Bromwich, who I think is the form prop of the competition at the moment, and he gave us a lot of trouble tonight. As did Adam Blair, who's playing extremely well. I thought Sam Moa was strong tonight too.
"But in the end I think the old heads of our side, they really showed their composure and showed their pride tonight for the jersey we're wearing. We didn't concede a point in the second half and that was through effort and determination to make sure we continued what we've built over the last couple of years."
However, Smith admitted his Kangaroos were "caught in the blocks" early on.
"They showed a lot of energy and enthusiasm at the start of the game. They would have wanted to come out and prove a lot of people wrong – they're a proud nation, as we are, they're a proud team but we didn't expect anything less," he said.
"We just got caught in the blocks and we can't afford to do that coming into the Four Nations at the end of the season. Where even though the victory didn't go their way tonight, I think they'll get a lot of confidence out of the way they played.
"I think they gave our team and the coaching staff a scare early on but it was pleasing with the way we finished, I think we showed why we're a champion side and we came through in the end."
Sheens was disappointed with the side's poor early completion rate handing their opponents opportunities.
"I think we were as disappointed with that as any part of our game, because we wanted to build pressure in the first 20 minutes and if anything we released the pressure by doing those stupid things. We talked about earning the right to do that and we didn't do that. In the second half we did," he said.
He also defended the decision to leave in-form Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans on the bench for the first 70 minutes of the match.
"The game was in the balance, he covers the three key positions," Sheens said.
"You just don't take Cam [Smith] off or JT [Johnathan Thurston] and Cooper [Cronk] off and break the rhythm of your game. As good a player as he is - and he's developed really well as that 14th man off our bench through the World Cup and stole it away from other options – unless there's an injury it's not easy to do it and break the rhythm of that game."
He said Cherry-Evans was well aware of his current role in the Australian side.
"He always knows that he's not sure whether something could happen straight away and he's out there or whether or not he'll come into the game. Same thing at the World Cup, but he got into the game," Sheens said.
Sheens refused to speculate on how the team might look come the end of year Four Nations, with so much footy to be played between now and then.
"What will be will be. We've got a State of Origin series which will be a great build-up for the end of the year, there's a lot of pressure on Queensland to maintain it, there's a lot of pressure on NSW to wrestle it away for them," he said.
"I'll sit back and enjoy that somewhat and let [Queensland coach Mal Meninga] make the decisions about the four options he's got with DCE pushing the boys in that respect. Better to have that option than not have that option, I can guarantee you that. I bet New Zealand and England would love to have that option."