Aussies rule over Kiwis in final pool

2010-11-06 14:11

Auckland – Australia won a psychological advantage over New Zealand ahead of next week’s Four Nations rugby league final when they beat the Kiwis 34-20 in the final pool match here today.

The trans-Tasman rivals had already been determined as the series finalists after earlier disposing of England and Papua New Guinea, and their pool match served more as a dress rehearsal for next week’s decider in Brisbane.

The honours clearly went to Australia, the reigning Four Nations champions, who fielded a weakened side but enjoyed 64% of possession and scored six tries to New Zealand’s three.

Australian coach Tim Sheens gambled on resting seven of his top players, including captain Darren Lockyer and star fullback Billy Slater, yet New Zealand still had no answer to the speed and power of the Kangaroos.

The match was only six minutes old when Australia swept from one end of the field to the other where Cooper Cronk swatted away New Zealand fullback Lance Hohaia to score in the corner.

Brett Morris and Brent Tate followed his path to the tryline and with three goals from stand-in captain Cameron Smith to one from Benji Marshall, Australia had a healthy 18-2 lead after 25 minutes.

With the game rapidly slipping out of their grasp, the Kiwis were jolted into action and dominated the remainder of the half and were rewarded with a try to Frank Pritchard and two goals by Marshall to trail 10-18 at the turn.

But Australia were in charge again immediately after the resumption when Morris scampered down the right touchline, staying just inside the chalk before flicking an inpass to Darius Boyd, who scored unopposed.

Chris Lawrence was first to a Robbie Farah chip kick to further extend the lead and then Morris scored his second try to have the result beyond doubt at the three-quarter mark with Australia leading 34-10.

Touches of Marshall magic earned New Zealand some respectability when he set up two late tries.

He first bluffed Lote Tuqiri with a pass out of the back of his hand, which sent Jason Nightingale over in the corner and then he put Shaun Kenny-Dowall over but New Zealand never seriously looked like overhauling the Kangaroos.

The match was part of a double-header in the first internationals of any code to be played at Eden Park since the completion of a major redevelopment ahead of next year’s rugby union World Cup.

In the earlier match, Harlequins centre Tony Clubb celebrated his Test debut with four tries as England beat Papua New Guinea 36-10 in the match to avoid the wooden spoon.

England’s first win closed a disappointing tournament for PNG, who lost all three games, conceding 154 points while scoring only 22.

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