New Zealand's Jesse Bromwich tackles Australia's Blake Ferguson during their Four Nations rugby league match at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry.
New Zealand's Jesse Bromwich tackles Australia's Blake Ferguson during their Four Nations rugby league match at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry. Simon Cooper

Kangaroos hold off fast-finishing Kiwis

ON A freezing night in England's Midlands, where the mercury hovered around zero, the Kangaroos hung on to a 14-8 win over the Kiwis in the Four Nations.

After being outplayed for most of the match, the Kiwis came alive in the last 10 minutes in a frenetic finish in Coventry.

They came close to forcing what would have been an unlikely draw, with Shaun Johnson held up over the line in the 80th minute.

The result means the Kangaroos have booked their place in the Four Nations final, while the Kiwis' fate will be decided next weekend.

Australia got to a 10-0 lead by the 15th minute and never really looked threatened after that, until New Zealand's late show.

The Kiwis had some decent spells inside the Australians' 20, but after working so hard to get there, seemed to be bereft of ideas of what to do next.

While much has been made of the Kiwis' giant forward pack, the Australians don't lack anything in size and are much the bigger team across the park.

They made the most of that advantage in the first half, with Blake Ferguson, Justin O'Neill and Greg Inglis all making inroads through the Kiwis' defensive line.

And, as much as it will dent New Zealand pride, the Kangaroos found it much easier to roll up the middle of the park for much of the match. That is supposed to be the Kiwis' domain, but in the first half the Kangaroos produced quicker play the balls as New Zealand backpedalled.

After an even start to the match, Australia broke the game open with two tries in the space of four minutes.

The first try came after a series of penalties, with Blake Ferguson crossing out wide in the 10th minute.

The second was even better, with a slashing Michael Morgan run wrong-footing the New Zealand defence, before Johnathan Thurston finished it off.

Morgan, who was a surprise replacement for Cooper Cronk, quickly justified coach Mal Meninga's faith. He was a constant menace in the first half, with the Kiwis struggling to handle his runs from deep.

The Kiwis defended well - the damage could have been much worse but for some outstanding defence - but much of the first half resembled the trans-Tasman Test in Perth last month.

Australia had time and space in attack, and looked constantly dangerous, whereas the Kiwis were hassled and harried by a fast-moving Kangaroos defensive line.

New Zealand had its moments, but wasn't good enough to take them. Greg Inglis did well to run down Jordan Rapana after a 60m intercept, but on the next play, with the Kangaroos' defensive line scattered, Johnson put down a wild Shaun Kenny-Dowall pass from dummy half.

Things needed to improve in the second half for the Kiwis, and they did, with Solomone Kata driving over from dummy half for his first Kiwis try. It was a great effort from the Warriors centre, and made amends for a nervy first half.

Australia maintained its advantage with two Thurston penalties - both conceded for holding down in the shadow of the posts.

Johnson engineered a late try for Rapana with a brilliant chip and chase, but it was too little, too late as the Kangaroos hung on.

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