GEN NEXT COP KIWI SHOCK
KIWIS UP SET MAL’S GEN NEXT
THE new generation of Australian players were given a harsh initiation to Test football after losing to the Kiwis for the first time in 1259 days.
New Zealand shocked the defending world champions 26-24 in front of an unofficial crowd of about 10,000 people in Auckland last night.
The one-off Test had Australia featuring four debutants in James Tedesco, Luke Keary, Latrell Mitchell and Damien Cook after the retirements of Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith.
Keary’s night lasted just 13 minutes before he was taken from the field with concussion. Cook, Tedesco and Mitchell also had mixed nights in what was coach Mal Meninga’s first loss since taking over as Australian coach in 2016 — a streak of 13 wins.
Man of the match Shaun Johnson starred, laying on two tries and a line-break assist in their five-tries-to-four win, while Joseph Manu was exceptional.
Australia’s new era started seamlessly when the Roosters’ left edge combination of Keary, Mitchell and Boyd Cordner combined to set Valentine Holmes up for a try after just three minutes.
Impatience and ill-discipline cost the Kangaroos, who kept forcing passes. Meninga said he was “worried” when his team started so well.
“When that error came around that 12-minute mark we didn’t touch the ball for another 10-12 minutes,” Meninga said. “The Kiwis sustained pressure through that first half and had all the momentum.
“We worry about (having an influx of new players) all the time as coaches. I thought our preparation was excellent all week. Everyone gelled well. It just didn’t work out well today.”
Australia looked like they had defended themselves out of trouble when a desperate effort from Tom Trbojevic repelled a Ken Maumalo try off the back of five consecutive sets.
But Maumalo would not be denied later again when he crossed in the 28th minute.
Joe Manu charged over Roosters teammate Mitchell to hand the Kiwis a two-point lead seven minutes later.
Remarkably, Australia went into the half-time break leading 12-8 despite having just 35 per cent possession. A controversial disallowed try to the Kiwis gave the Australian side one last chance before the half-time break, with Daly Cherry-Evans combining with Tom Trbojevic to send Dane Gagai over.
By half-time Kiwi prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves had already run for 136m.
Meninga said it was “miracle” Australia led at half-time.
“I was proud of the team at half-time the way they hung in there and defended and got in front,” he said. “We ran out of gas. It was a tough night.
“They played really well. We made a lot of errors.
“I can’t fault the effort and attitude and desire to play. We just need to execute better.”
Kiwi hooker Brandon Smith started the second half onslaught when he crashed past Cook and Cherry-Evans for an easy try to give New Zealand a two point lead after 54 minutes.
The Kiwis led by 14 points with five minutes to go before Australia scored twice through Tedesco and Felise Kaufusi to keep the result alive until the final play.
New Kiwi skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak praised coach Michael Maguire, who took charge for his first victory as New Zealand coach.
“We’ve ticked off every box,” he said. “The whole organisation has been professional.”
David Klemmer is wrapped up. Jesse Bromwich celebrates with Shaun Johnson. Daly CherryEvans has noanswers. Rookie Brandon Smith celebrates on the Kiwis’ way to victory over Australia in Auckland. Pictures: Getty, AAP