Kiwis left to rue costly kick errors
The Kiwis found out on Friday night that rugby league can be a cruel, cruel game.
Future generations will look back at the score and note that Australia won 30-12, but had a few things gone differently in the nation's capital there might have been another result.
New Zealand made more metres, conceded fewer penalties and produced more offloads, but it counted for little as the Kangaroos opened up an unassailable 24-0 lead to kill off the contest before half-time.
The writing was on the wall in the first 10 minutes when New Zealand sent their first two attacking kicks dead while Australia forced back-to-back repeat sets before Johnathan Thurston's right boot set up Josh Dugan for the opening try.
It's those fine margins that can be the difference between victory and defeat and while neither of New Zealand's halves were guilty of sending the ball long, Shaun Johnson acknowledged that he and halves partner Kieran Foran had to take more control in those situations to ensure the Kangaroos wouldn't be let off the hook.
"Lucky it wasn't seven tackles like in the NRL because we would have been in a world of pain. Me and Foz (Foran) have got to take responsibility for that," Johnson said after the game.
"In the second half we corrected that and we built pressure on the back of it and defended our line a lot better with a bit of mongrel.
"There are always small margins in these games when you're playing against the best.
"You look at some of the tries they scored, they just beat us to everything – a couple of kicks, one ricocheted off the post, our edge having a bit of a nightmare – and before you know it you're 18 points down and you're like 'how did that happen?'"
Kiwis coach David Kidwell accepted that his side's fifth play options weren't good enough in the first half, but saw enough positives in the second stanza to give him confidence heading into the World Cup.
"We spoke about our kick finishes at half-time and to Shaun's credit and Kieran, they fixed that up," Kidwell said.
"Rugby league is a game of inches and if those kicks land in the in goal and we take those couple of opportunities, maybe the scoreline is a bit different."
Johnson echoed his coach's sentiments, telling media after the game that if his side can produce the sort of footy that saw them win the second half they will be in good stead come the end-of-season showpiece event.
"We put a lot into this week and wanted to go out there and play a certain type of way. We didn't get it right when we started off but I thought we came out in the second half and finished well," he said.
"For us I think it's important that we focus on that and really take that into the rest of the season and look to build on that ahead of the World Cup.
"If we build our [World Cup] campaign off that style of footy then I genuinely think we'll be OK. Everyone has a role to play and it starts with the halves. We don't need to do anything dramatic."