Kangaroos Dominate Last Anzac Test
The last-ever Anzac Test delivered an all-too-familiar result for David Kidwell’s New Zealand side, with a first-half blitz by Australia laying the platform for a comfortable victory – the green-and-golds’ 17th in 19 mid-season clashes since the inaugural showdown in 1998.
THE MATCH: The Kiwis started strongly and remained confident after Josh Dugan climbed over opposing centre Jordan Kahu to claim a pinpoint Johnathan Thurston kick and score the first try in the 12th minute.
An Andrew Fifita fumble from the kick-off provided an ideal opportunity to hit back, but after Shaun Johnson created an overlap down the Kiwis’ left side, Blake Ferguson snaffled the halfback’s cut-out pass and raced 90 metres to score.
Will Chambers (29th minute) crossed on the back of a Sam Thaiday break before Tyson Frizell (35th) pounced on a Thurston grubber that bounced off the upright padding, and the Test was as good as over at 24-0 at halftime.
The Kangaroos virtually sealed the result five minutes after the break, with Cooper Cronk providing a no-look assist for Jake Trbojevic to score after brilliant work from Darius Boyd.
Down by 30, the Kiwis dug in and started to throw the ball around, resulting in the last two tries of the match to Simon Mannering (56th minute) and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (65th), but the Kangaroos successfully shut down subsequent raids to rule out any prospect of a miracle comeback.
It was as clinical as it gets from Australia, who didn’t have any mind-blowing performers yet won easily because every player did their job effectively. Their defence was outstanding – the Kiwis actually had more of the ball, but the Kangaroos’ kicking game, defence and completion rate was far superior.
Despite some promising early moments, New Zealand looked bereft of ideas on attack – something that plagued them throughout 2016 – and played far too laterally, while their trademark second-phase only popped up when the game was long gone.
Mal Meninga’s loyalty slant came up trumps, with the team picking up where they left off in last year’s Four Nations final. They never looked in danger of losing control of the match.
Still, the Kiwis did stem the flow of points in the second half, and the Kangaroos know better than to take the Kiwis lightly in a World Cup year – especially when the final is at Suncorp Stadium.
THE MAN: Thurston, Cronk and 50-Test hero Smith controlled things beautifully, but one player that continually caught the eye was second-rower Matt Gillett. In an 80-mintue effort, the Broncos workhorse racked up a mammoth 46 tackles – including several outstanding try-saving stops. He also made two line-breaks with the ball in hand. Playing their first Tests since 2015, Simon Mannering and Dean Whare were easily New Zealand’s best.
THE MOMENT: If Blake Ferguson hadn’t made the decision to make a play for Shaun Johnson’s pass near the Australian try-line in the 17th minute, the Kiwis score and it’s a completely different ball game. But the enigmatic three-quarter trusted his instincts and went the length to score his sixth try in seven Tests, the New Zealanders’ heads dropped and the rest is history. Under pressure coming into the match after some so-so form for the Roosters, Ferguson deserved to keep his place on the back of his Harry Sunderland Medal-winning efforts in the 2016 Four Nations – and he repaid Meninga’s faith with interest, racking up a game-high 228 metres.