Great way to win back the fair­weather fans

Herald on Sunday - - IN OTHER NEWS - Christo­pher Reive at Mt Smart

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.

Photo / Photosport

The Ki­wis cel­e­brate the try last night of Jor­dan Ra­pana.

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