Refs called England's bluff: Smith
A collective sigh of relief from the local supporters could nearly have drowned out that full-time siren.
The Kangaroos went within a Ryan Hall fingernail of losing back-to-back Tests for the first time in 36 years.
However as close as disaster came the history books will show a 16-12 win over England in front of 20, 585 fans at AAMI Park.
Australia trailed by as much as eight in the second half before tries to debutant Ben Hunt and the enigmatic Greg Inglis helped keep their Four Nations hopes alive.
It was not without a heart-stopping finale as Hall lunged for a grubber in the in-goal, only for video referee Bernard Sutton to rule there was insufficient downward pressure.
Tim Sheens would have been forgiven for having his heart leap out of his chest as Hall lunged for what would’ve been the match-winner, though the body language of the Leeds winger told the story in the end.
“I think had it been a try, I think Hall would have been celebrating but he wasn’t,” said Sheens.
“They were ready for the line drop-out so I think the player told you really, irrespective of what England will say.
“If he scores he’s jumping up and down and they are screaming for a try but they all went back for a line drop-out didn’t they? So I think that is indicative of what it was, it was the right decision."
It was only after a video replay was shown on the screen that the England players and pocket of supporters went up in arms in an attempt to encourage an overturn.
Man-of-the-match and veteran skipper Cameron Smith knew all too well the trick the visitors were trying to pull.
“I think they were trying to bluff the referee pretty much, I think a lot of teams try and do that when it’s a 50/50 [call],” said Smith.
“At that stage when it’s out of our control what can we do? It’s out of our hands. Obviously you’re hoping that it stays with the decision of the referee but there wasn’t really too much we could have done.
“Up until that I thought we played a pretty good game of football.”
Smith was full of praise for the Kangaroos’ three debutants David Klemmer (78 metres, 14 tackles), Ben Hunt (34 metres, 49 touches and a try) and Sione Mata’utia (144 metres).
Hunt came on with 28 minutes to play with immediate effect, latching on to a Smith kick from dummy half for his first try just five minutes into his Test career.
It was a pressure-filled final half hour for the Kangaroos, whose performance until then appeared to have them feeling the effects of a pressure-filled build up during the week.
“There is always relief when you still have an opportunity to be in the final but there wasn’t a feeling in the camp like we were down and out and let’s hope we win,” said Smith.
“We came into this game confident that we were going to play well because we prepared well… After that match and during the week I spoke about our standards and we didn’t reach that but I though today we took some big steps to reaching them.
“That was a great game of football, that is what Test football is all about, that’s why everyone wants to play for their country.”
The Kangaroos still have their work ahead of them if they are to book a place in the Four Nations final on November 15.
As the table currently stands Australia (-14) sit behind second placed England (+2) on points differential.
It is a significant deficit to overturn, making next Sunday’s Test against an improving Samoa side a significant hurdle for the host nation to overcome.
England will play the undefeated Kiwis next Saturday afternoon at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.