The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT - MICHAEL CARAYANNIS

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

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