Mannering relieved after Samoa reality check
Fresh off his side booking their spot in the Four Nations final with a 14-12 victory over Samoa, Kiwis captain Simon Mannering said he was relieved to get the win in a frustrating encounter.
After putting together one of the best performances from a Kiwi side in recent memory during last Saturday's 30-12 victory over Australia, the Kiwis had to wait until the dying minutes to hit the lead against a stubborn Samoa.
New Zealand conceded first points and were outplayed for the majority of the clash at Toll Stadium, often appearing clumsy on attack and frail in the defensive middle of the park.
"I am pretty thankful to come out on top in the end," Mannering admitted.
"We threw a lot of shape at them and they were handling it pretty well and maybe that put us into a bit of frustration, trying to push it probably a touch too much.
"They definitely were a lot better than us in a lot of areas. I felt if we held onto the ball for a bit longer we could come up with points and thankfully we did."
Only a 76th-minute Shaun Kenny-Dowall try – orchestrated by some classy touches from Shaun Johnson – saved the Kiwis from defeat, with the intensity and execution which headlined their win over Australia nowhere to be found.
While aware of what the Samoan side would bring to the game, Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney said their performance was above what he had prepared for.
"I know we anticipated the challenge that was coming today, I thought we prepared that way but it probably exceeded what I thought they would come with," Kearney said.
"In fairness I thought we were probably a little bit off the ball, so that's the lesson for us.
"I thought Samoa were wonderful today and really took it to us. The result was a pretty exciting match.
"You take nothing away from Samoa, a lot of their defence created a lot of that frustration.
"I was bloody nervous with about fifteen to go.
"I was always confident that if we got ourselves enough field position and footy we would create ourselves an opportunity.
"I think we created two or three chances in that last fifteen but it wasn't until the last one that we got over the line.
"We hung in there with enough courage at the end of the game to get away with it.
"We are two steps into a tournament and we have got two wins. What it does tell us is that we have still got a long way to go.
"We set the bar pretty high last week and today's performance was a good lesson for us in terms of where we need to work towards if we really want to make a go of this competition."
With a spot in their second Four Nations final now secured the Kiwis look likely to rest some key personnel ahead of Saturday's clash with England in Dunedin.
Among those could be standoff Kieran Foran, who shook off a corked thigh sustained in the first half to guide the Kiwis home.
"We have got a few bumps and bruises as you could well imagine after the physical nature of the game," Kearney said.
"We will take stock of things tomorrow.
"Both Manu (Vatuvei) and Issac (Luke) had really strong performances and it gives us a headache for next week which is a good one.
"Jason Taumalolo stood out for me in the second half and Tohu Harris was really good, so that is encouraging for us as a team."