AUSTRALIA’S team of stars overwhelmed the world champions’ team of doers in front of an almost-packed house at Suncorp Stadium, their all-Queensland backline running in seven tries to the Kiwis’ two.
New Zealand turned up with buckets of passion to make a game of it and looked set to do just that when they led Tim Sheens’ men 6-4 midway through the first half – before fatigue and green-and-gold guile got the better of them
The Kangaroos built their winning platform on early hard yards and no mistakes, clawing out their territory. They had to, given New Zealand held a decisive possession advantage for much of the first half.
But when the Kiwis started making errors the home side made sure their opponents paid on the scoreboard.
The visitors needed a solid start but found themselves trailing 4-0 with just seven minutes gone when new skipper Benji Marshall threw a woeful pass from the scrum base 20 metres out from his line that was not surprisingly grassed by Iosia Soliola. Australia fed and won the ensuing scrum and on the first play Israel Folau was over in the right corner after some crisp passing from Darren Lockyer and Justin Hodges.
New Zealand rebounded with a short-side play which saw winger Sam Perrett cross and Marshall convert in the 16th minute before Adam Blair and Soliola committed the cardinal sin of taking Johnathan Thurston for granted as the scheming Australian halfback ran to the line in the 23rd minute; Thurston sold the pair a trademark dummy and sliced through with barely a hand on him to score in the left corner and shoot Australia out to a 10-6 advantage.
The Kiwis buckled in the second half; in an interesting sidenote, they swamped Australia 22-4 in the second half during the World Cup Final… and were on the receiving end of the same passage of scoring in the second stanza of this Test.
The Game Swung When…
Australia received a penalty for a marker infringement and went on the attack 45 metres out; centre Justin Hodges moved in to dummy-half, dummied and sliced straight through the Kiwis’ back-pedalling defenders, a huge right-foot step beating the grasp of Kiwi back-rower David Fa’alogo. That made it 16-6 and the Kiwis’ wings were well and truly clipped.
Who Was Hot… Johnathan Thurston revelled in having a top-class backline outside of him. He probed and schemed and scored two excellent two tries.
Justin Hodges appreciated the advances his forward pack made and was able to run amok out wide, also scoring a double.
Props Steve Price (105 metres in 44 minutes), Petero Civoniceva (104 metres, 47 minutes) and Luke Bailey (120 metres, 36 minutes) made solid gains, allowing the likes of Glenn Stewart to work creatively.
For the Kiwis tough second-rower Bronson Harrison (six tackle breaks and a try assist) continues to be a revelation.
Who was Not… While he didn’t have a bad game, Kiwis prop Roy Asotasi (just 75 metres gained) was arguably as inconspicuous on the field as he’s ever been.
Second-rower David Fa’alogo made three bad misses in defence, while Marshall tried hard but couldn’t deliver his magic touch when required.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… In the 28th minute Billy Slater (two try assists) caught a kick behind his head while running backwards, turned and charged 20 metres on the kick return – and then lost the possession in the play-the-ball!
In the 56th minute Darren Lockyer took the ball on the New Zealand 20-metre line and offloaded to Glenn Stewart who instantly popped a netball-like thrust inside to a flying Slater who ran 18 metres to score after a struggle with the ball-plant.
Ref Watch… English referee Richard Silverwood did a good job and didn’t impose himself on proceedings.
Perhaps the only bone of contention came when he was quick to call no try, adjudging the chaser of a Nathan Fien kick offside when the Kiwis were searching for their first points in the 14th minute. It didn’t affect things too much as they scored five minutes later. But he should have gone to the video ref.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Justin Hodges (Kangaroos): The Kiwis tried to contain him but couldn’t. Powered for 131 metres from 12 runs with 12 tackle breaks, two line-breaks, a try assist and two tries.2 points – Cameron Smith (Kangaroos): Gave his side magnificent service in the ruck with 74 touches, nine dummy-half runs and 31 tackles; 1 point – Johnathan Thurston (Kangaroos): Was at his mercurial best with two line breaks and two tries.
Kangaroos 38 (J Thurston 2, J Hodges 2, B Slater, I Folau, D Boyd tries; Thurston 5 goals) def Kiwis 10 (S Perrett, M Vatuvei tries, B Marshall goal) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 37,152.