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Four Nations Final Review: New Zealand 22 Australia 18

New Zealand 22
Tries: Manu Vatuvei 2, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Johnson
Goals: Shaun Johnson 3

Australia 18
Tries: Michael Jennings, Sione Mata’utia, Ben Hunt
Goals: Cameron Smith 3/3

A Shaun Johnson masterclass has guided New Zealand to a 22-18 victory over Australia in the 2014 Four Nations Final at Westpac Stadium in Wellington tonight.

In an end-to-end contest, the Kiwis led 14-6 at half time, and 22-12 with less than 20 minutes remaining in an absorbing contest.

A Kiwis error off a Cooper Cronk bomb allowed Kangaroos centre Michael Jennings to score the opening try, converted by Cameron Smith for a 6-0 lead after 12 minutes.

The home side hit back when a sweeping play allowed winger Jason Nightingale to score his 5th try of the tournament. In windy conditions, Shaun Johnson converted to tie the game up at 6-all after 23 minutes.

The Kiwis hit the lead via a Johnson penalty goal in the 28th minute and winger Manu Vatuvei powered his way over the line in the 34th minute. Another brilliant sideline conversion by Johnson gave them a well-deserved 8-point lead at half time.

Desperate to stay in the match, the Kangaroos took just two minutes to score in the second half when Daly Cherry-Evans burst through from close range and set up Sione Mata’utia out wide. Despite some concerns over a possible obstruction, the try was awarded and Smith’s conversion made it 14-12.

A brilliant individual try to Johnson in the 57th minute swung momentum back to the home side. Drifting down the right side, a sublime show-and-go put him clear before terrific footwork and outstanding speed took him past Greg Inglis for a great try. He was unable to convert and the Kiwis led 18-12.

In the 63rd minute Johnson was the provider of Vatuvei’s second; his superior footwork kept the Kangaroos’ defence at bay before a 30 metre pass to Vatuvei, who showed great skill for a big man to pick the ball up inches from the ground and crash over in the corner to make it 22-12.

The Kangaroos were forced to play ad-lib football to stay in the contest and with 4 minutes remaining quick hands down the right side eventually saw Ben Hunt dive over to make it 22-18 to give the Kangaroos an outside chance of snatching victory. Unfortunately Smith was unable to convert and the Kiwis recorded a famous victory.

University of Wollongong alumni and aspiring journalist.

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