Opportunistic Johnson pleases Kidwell
Kiwis coach David Kidwell has applauded star halfback Shaun Johnson for his spur-of-the-moment play which got New Zealand home 17-16 in a crucial Four Nations encounter against England.
With scores tied at 16-all, Johnson elected to kick a field goal - a play typically reserved for the dying moments of a half - with 15 minutes remaining and with his side camped on the opposition goal-line.
It turned out to be a masterstroke, as the defending Four Nations champions held on to secure the victory in front of a sold-out John Smith's Stadium crowd of 24,070 on Sunday morning (AEDT).
After the win Kidwell shifted praise on to his No.7, confirming no call came down from the coaching box to kick the field goal.
"Shaun at that stage of the game - I think Thomas [Leuluai] was off at that moment - and we really needed him to take control, and I thought he did that," Kidwell said.
"I am all about players taking their opportunities, and he saw one and took the opportunity and it ended up being the winning field goal.
"I don't go out and tell people what to do, they obviously believe in their confidence and their ability.
"I thought Shaun really stepped up."
The match-winning play topped off a strong showing from Johnson, who was named Man of the Match at full-time.
The former Golden Boot winner said at the time of kicking the field goal he never envisaged the play had won his team the game, but admitted to feeling some relief after copping plenty of criticism following the Kiwis' 26-6 defeat to Australia two weeks ago.
"I didn't for one second think 'that is us, we have won the game', it was more to get our nose in front because you take any sort of lead you can when you are playing up here [in England]," Johnson said.
"The opportunity was there and I just took it and we held very tough at the end there, the boys just kept showing up for each other.
"It is pleasing [to come up with some big plays]. I never doubted myself but when you hear things often enough you start to question them.
"So to come out there and just play for the boys, play for the person next to me, that is all I did and I am glad I could play a part in the boys getting a win."
New Zealand meanwhile will wait for news on the health of Leuluai, who left the match in the 52nd minute with a head knock and did not return.
"He is getting assessed so we won't know until later on," Kidwell said.
Should Leuluai fail to recover, it could open the door for 21-year-old Penrith Panthers rookie Te Marie Martin to make his Test debut against Australia in Coventry next week.