Great way to win back the fairweather fans
When did the Kiwis become agents of chaos?
Complete and utter disorder descended on the turf at Mt Smart Stadium in the form of 17 men in skin-tight black and white shirts.
It has been a long time since the Kiwis have been even remotely competitive against the Kangaroos.
But with only eight players remaining in the squad from the battering at the hands of England in Denver, the Kiwis were always going to look different in their test against the world champions last night.
But to walk away with a 26-24 win? Very few would have expected that.
After conceding a try in the first 21 seconds, the Kiwis took control of the first 40 minutes. It took a high-risk pass from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who fired the ball between his legs, before the Kiwis got on the board.
Just like that, the new Kiwis captain may have defined his reign. In a role where you usually find players telling their team to play smart and keep their heads, he lit the fire and watched it burn.
In recent matches, it has seemed that once the Kiwis fall behind, they lose their confidence, and with it, their ambition on the pitch.
There was no sign of that this time around.
The return of the exiled Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor was a spectacular one.
Together with two-time premiership-winning prop NRL Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, the energy they brought to the pitch showed what it means to represent your country.
Every run was targeted and meaningful, and allowed those playing outside some freedom.
It was a benefit to five-eighth Shaun Johnson, who played off the back of strong runs from his forwards and got to work with ball in hand.
With strong options across the backline and halfback Kodi Nikorima stepping up when asked to put boot to ball, Johnson played without fear in his running game.
And when Johnson goes looking for a dance partner, the Kiwis are better for it.
Add in some at times frantic and unproductive offloads, and some offthe-cuff kicking plays and you get a product that would appeal to league fans everywhere.
It could almost be cause to simply tell Johnson not to kick the footy — in attacking positions at least. His kicking game was mediocre at best and often let the Kangaroos off all too easily.
Sure, it helped that the fresh-faced Australians weren’t flash when they had the ball in their hands. Too many errors meant two first-half runaway tries were all they could muster, but this Kiwis team showed up ready to go the 80 minutes.
As frantic as it was towards the end, there was no looking away. The Kiwis are looking to regain the support of New Zealand’s harsh fairweather fans, and this performance was a great start.
The Kiwis celebrate the try last night of Jordan Rapana.