Kangaroos withstand Kiwi assault
Friday 20 April 2012 10:00 PM
2012 International Test Match Result
AUSTRALIAN KANGAROOS 20
(Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith Tries; Johnathan Thurston 4/4 Goals)
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS 12
(Issac Luke, Shaun Johnson Tries; Benji Marshall 2/2 Goals)
Friday, April 20, 2012. Halftime: AUS 14-6.
At Eden Park, Auckland. Crowd: 35,339.
Referee: Richard Silverwood
Australia has overcome the sin-binning of fullback Billy Slater in the first half to defeat a spirited New Zealand side 20-12 and secure the first Test match of 2012.
“It was a tough one,” Slater told Channel Nine after the match. “We gave away a couple of penalties early and a few things didn’t go our way but we hung in there and it was a tough win in the end.”
While Kiwi halfback and debutant Shaun Johnson said his team was beaten by the Australian’s ability to do the little things right.
“It was awesome, something I’ll never forget,” Johnson said. “Credit to Australia, they did all the basics right and deserved the win.”
New Zealand started brightly, withstanding two attacking kicks by Cooper Cronk for Akuila Uate, before Issac Luke forced his way over for the first try of the Test. Sam McKendry’s powerful run put the Kiwis on the line, and then Luke sold David Shillington a big dummy and had too much strength for Cameron Smith, the New Zealand hooker scoring under the posts in the 12th minute to give the home side a 6-0 lead.
The introduction of Ben Hannant and James Tamou after a quarter of the match gave Australia the impetus to level the game up. First Uate was stopped in the right corner by Manu Vatuvei one on one, then Johnathan Thurston took advantage of a Kiwi defence that over-read the play and the Kangaroos halfback scored. Thurston added the extras and after 23 minutes it was 6-all.
Greg Inglis put Australia in front with his 19th try in his 21 Test, following Thurston and Slater down the left edge and the pair combined to put Inglis into all the space he needed to cross in the 28th minute. Thurston converted from touch to put Australia ahead 12-6.
Josh Hoffman hurt his ankle in the 29th minute to add his name to the walking wounded after Johnson (shoulder), Shillington (head cut) and Inglis (head knock) copped knocks in the opening half.
In the 32nd minute, New Zealand had a chance to level up when Slater took the Alex Glenn off the ball when the Kiwi second rower was trying to reach a Johnson grubber that had wrong-footed the Australian fullback. The video referee made the right call in recommending that Slater be sin binned for 10 minutes for a professional foul but New Zealand were not awarded a penalty try due to Anthony Watmough being close enough to clean up the ball ahead of the obstructed Glenn.
A late call by a touch judge over-ruled a decision by referee Richard Silverwood to award New Zealand a scrum from an Inglis mistake, saw Australia dodge a bullet in the 39th minute. Nathan Fien then conceded a penalty moments later and Thurston made New Zealand pay with a penalty goal on the stroke of halftime.
Australia despite being down to 12 men with Slater binned, took a 14-6 lead to the sheds.
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New Zealand failed to take advantage of Slater’s absence and moments after the Australian returned from the sin bin, and compounding the missed opportunity, Vatuvei hobbled out of a tackle with an ankle injury.
But the game seemed to turn again in the 47th minute with the second intercept by New Zealand on the night. Johnson jumped up from the defensive line and picked off Cronk’s out ball to Justin Hodges and the Kiwi halfback was unchallenged on his 80 metre run to the line. Marshall converted and New Zealand were back within two points.
New Zealand kept themselves close when Hoffman produced a superb try-saving tackle on Hodges in the 57th minute when the Australian centre chose not to pass to Uate on his run towards the right corner.
Marshall’s attempt at a 40/20 in the 62nd minute went out on the full but Australia didn’t capitalise on the error after a full set on the New Zealand line.
Hoffman then split Australia thanks to a Jesse Bromwich offload and the fullback found Jason Nightingale who was brought down inside the Australian 20m zone. But again, the attacking team couldn’t breach the defensive line and New Zealand turned the ball over with 15 minutes left.
David Taylor’s re-injection late in the second half lifted Australia and the Kangaroos went ahead by eight when skipper Cameron Smith made a second effort while over the try line to score his side’s third try in the 69th minute.
New Zealand made a late push forcing three consecutive sets of six but time ran out on the hosts and Australia’s defence gave them their fourth straight Test match victory against their trans-Tasman neighbours.
Best for Australia were Johnathan Thurston, Ben Hannant, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk, Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis.
Best for New Zealand were Jesse Bromwich, Josh Hoffman, Shaun Johnson and Ben Matulino.
Australian halfback Johnathan Thurston was named the official man of the match.
Injury and Team News
New Zealand Kiwis: Shaun Johnson (Shoulder), Josh Hoffman (Ankle), Manu Vatuvei (Ankle).
Australian Kangaroos: David Shillington (Head Cut), Greg Inglis (Head knock).
B Slater, D Boyd, G Inglis, J Hodges, A Uate, J Thurston, C Cronk, P Gallen, C Smith ©, D Shillington, D Taylor, S Thaiday, L Lewis.
Bench: D Cherry-Evans, B Hannant, J Tamou, A Watmough. Coach: T Sheens.
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS
J Hoffman, J Nightingale, S Kenny-Dowall, S Mannering, M Vatuvei, B Marshall ©, S Johnson, B Matulino, I Luke, S McKendry, A Blair, F Pritchard, J Smith.
Bench: N Fien, J Bromwich, J Waerea-Hargreaves, A Glenn. Coach: S Kearney.
The Kiwis and Kangaroos will play a second Test in October at an Australian venue that is yet to be confirmed.