For the first time in sixty-one years, the New Zealand Kiwis have defeated the Kangaroos in two successive Tests, while also claiming their third major title at the Aussies’ expense in the last six years, following wins in the 2008 World Cup Final and the 2010 Four Nations.
New Zealand claimed the 2014 Four Nations title at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday 22-18, after having won 30-12 three weeks ago in Brisbane.
25,183 fans witnessed an awesome display by the Kiwis, as they constantly ran over the Kangaroos’ underpowered forward pack, who had no answers for the running power of Jesse Bromwich, Greg Eastwood and Martin Taupau.
Despite the Kiwis leading 14-6 at half-time, Australia had taken the lead in the 11th minute against the run of play, before tries in the 23rd minute by Jason Nightingale and a first by Manu Vatuvei twelve minutes later capitalised on New Zealand’s forward dominance.
Just after the half time break, Sione Mata’utia scored his first Test try for the Kiwis before Australia began to assert some dominance. However, a further try for New Zealand after 58 minutes stemmed the tide, and when Manu Vatuvei crossed for the second time in the match in the 63rd minute, he became New Zealand’s all-time record try scorer.
At this stage, the game looked over, but the Kangaroos rallied again with Ben Hunt scoring a late try in the 76th minute. Then it looked as though the visitors might have snatched the spoils at the end, only for an 80th-minute try by Mata’utia to be controversially disallowed for a forward pass.
Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney was delighted at the win, believing it makes some amends for the humiliating 2013 World Cup Final loss when the Kangaroos thrashed New Zealand 34-2. “A lot of these guys were involved in the World Cup last year, so my joy is for them,” said Kearney.
His opposite number, Tim Sheens, was also full of praise for his under-strength side, whose preparation had been severely disrupted by a virus that swept through the camp earlier in the week, causing several players to be quarantined and unable to train.
“We had a chance to win it at the end, but it wasn’t to to be. They called it back but I’m not going to sit here and whinge about that,” said Sheens. “That was a courageous effort.”
With this win—a second Four Nations title to go with the World Cup and a Tri-Nations series win in 2005—New Zealand can justifiably claim to be the best international team in world Rugby League over the last ten years.