Forwards helped Johnson create magic
Halfback Shaun Johnson may have stolen the limelight with an electric performance which included a try and assist, but his coach insisted their forwards were the key to winning the Four Nations final.
Playing in his 13th Test, Johnson took Man of the Match honours after scoring 10 points and running for almost 100 metres in the 22-18 victory over the Kangaroos.
But post-match Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney, as well as Johnson himself, said the praise should be directed at their big boppers who ran for a combined total of 850 metres at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.
"As a half there is no way I could have jumped on the back of it if they [the forwards] weren't doing that," said Johnson, who busted the game open in the 58th minute with his 40-metre try.
"They have been doing it for a few weeks now and I am just glad I could execute when I got that chance off the back of it.
"There were some really tough carries that had to be made out there and the forwards just kept delivering.
"I thought the forwards did a really good job laying the platform.
"I was just able to get through there and I guess reward them for the work that they had done.
"Credit to them [Australia], they put a lot of pressure on me throughout the whole night.
"Obviously the kicking game was always going to be pretty important and I thought they did a good job with putting some pressure on me.
"But again it was how we reacted to it. We still got a kick up and the boys really chased well. I thought 'Foz' (Kieran Foran) really led the kick chase well again tonight and sort of set that standard for us.
While the starting forwards did well to combat an early Australian onslaught, it was the impact of interchange players Martin Taupau (108 metres) and Greg Eastwood (113 metres) which really stood out for Kearney.
"I think the boys would be first to say this, I think our bench has been fantastic the whole tournament," Kearney said.
"They came on and Marty (Taupau) tonight was a wrecking ball out there, and I thought he not only swung the momentum back in our favour but certainly continued the momentum our way.
"I thought Greg Eastwood did the same to be fair, and Tohu (Harris).
"The [forwards in general] started to get a bit of momentum and break them down a bit and we got ourselves some opportunities.
"We started to gain some real momentum and obviously Shaun, off the back of some great work by the forwards, got some opportunities to pull them open a bit.
"I thought in the first half Australia really slowed us up through the middle.
"They made it pretty well known to everybody that they needed to slow our forwards up and they did a really good job of that in probably the first 25 minutes."
While most of the 25,093 in attendance collectively held their breath as Australia launched a spirited comeback in the final five minutes, Kearney said he was always confident his chargers would hold on for the win.
"I felt confident, we have been in that situation now for the last few weeks and I have got to say that in all of those occasions I felt confident because the guys trusted their footy," he said.
"At that particular stage it was their defence that needed to be trusted and right through the whole tournament they have done that. I felt more anxious against Samoa to be fair.
"I thought there were some defensive efforts tonight from the boys that were telling points."
The Kiwi mentor also offered an update on the health of Taupau, who left the field with a suspected neck injury on 45 minutes.
"He has been discharged from the hospital, they sent him there for a check-up," Kearney said.
"There was a bit of worry for him…but by all accounts he has come though alright."