Australia had three players on debut in Perth and they all proved they belong in the rep arena with good performances.
Valentine Holmes put in a performance worthy of MOTM honours. He scored a try, ran for 134m and set up an amazing try for Greg Inglis. After making a break down the line in the opposition’s 30m zone, he put in a chip kick on the run as he was about to be tackled out which rebounded off Jordan Kahu’s head and into the hands of Inglis who dived over to notch up Australia’s second try. He did all of this playing on the left wing, away from his preferred right edge where he has played all year, a testament to his considerable talents.
Shannon Boyd stood up to the Kiwis massive forward pack and silenced his critics who questioned his inclusion over other form players by contributing to what was a strong opening from Australia. He ran hard, made his tackles and didn’t take a backward step. Tyson Frizell bought the same level of impact and energy into the game that he did for NSW earlier in the year. His powerful charges and hard hitting defence helped keep momentum going for his team during a scoring lull in the 2nd half.
Australia re-assert dominance
On Saturday Australia made their intentions clear to New Zealand that they are going to win the Four Nations and do it with relative ease. The might of the Kiwis forward pack was nowhere to be seen as players like Trent Merrin went on the charge, disorienting the Kiwis defence with his offloads while Johnathan Thurston never had to get out of first gear as he comfortably kept the momentum in Australia’s hands while Cooper Cronk kept control of the game. The new look left side of Inglis/Holmes took no time to demonstrate how dangerous they can be and older players like Sam Thaiday showed they still have a lot left in the tank to give.
After three straight losses to the Kiwis dating back to the opening match of the 2014 Four Nations tournament, Australia has used 2016 as an opportunity to get themselves back on top of the International rankings and restore the dominance they previously had over New Zealand. In the two matches they have played thus far this year the aggregate score has been 42-6. Darius Boyd has continued his undefeated streak against the Kiwis with 11 straight victories and scoring the opening try in both contests. It’ll take a mighty effort for New Zealand to rediscover the secret to beating Australia they had from 2014-15 as right now they are facing an uphill battle to match it with the Kangaroos.
Lack of class evident for the Kiwis
Despite the return of Issac Luke to the team and an experienced 5/8 by Shaun Johnson’s side the Kiwis side barely managed to put in a better quality showing than their ANZAC Test efforts. The hype behind their forward pack proved to be nothing but empty words as they struggled to make an impact and Johnson was unable to conjure up any magic.New Zealand’s poor 5th tackle options cost them dearly as they never really looked like troubling the Kangaroos in attack throughout the match with potent attacking weapons like Solomone Kata and Jordan Rapana not being given enough opportunities to produce points. Poor game management led to events like Kevin Proctor kicking the ball on 5th tackle and potential point scoring opportunities were squandered. After Marty Taupau made a break through the middle and ran 40m the Kiwis looked to have an opportunity to run the ball on the left and create a potential overlap to score. Instead Thomas Leuluai put in a poorly weighted grubber kick that went over the dead ball line and nothing came out of Taupau’s strong run which was one of the few highlights of the match for New Zealand.
The Kiwis have desperately lacked the presence of Kieran Foran in the halves. He was present in all of their recent victories against Australia and has been absent for both of their recent losses. It’ll still be a while before Foran returns to the side, if he’s even allowed to at all, so New Zealand might have to reconsider their options and take a chance on an untested youngster. Te Maire Martin hasn’t played NRL in months but as he showed in his debut game where he kicked the winning field goal, he can handle pressure and he can offer a new dimension of attack to a side that looked predictable in their set plays.
In the outside backs a more offensive style fullback could be considered with David Fusitua and the forwards really need to step up and lay the platform for Johnson to take advantage of. Jesse Bromwich and Jason Taumalolo were Dally M recipients as Prop and Lock of the year but against the Kangaroos they only managed to make 77 and 67 running metres respectively while Australia had 12 players surpass that. A major improvement from them is needed if they are to trouble Australia in the Four Nations tournament.
Rocks and Diamonds
Shaun Kenny Dowall had a truly atrocious day out on Saturday. He made 4 errors, 3 of which led directly to tries from the following set and all 5 of Australia’s tries were scored down his defensive edge. For many people, the type of game he had wasn’t all that surprising as he has notoriously been either a destructive attacking player or a clueless liability in defence throughout his playing career. His game against Australia was exactly the type of performance that epitomised his ‘Rocks and Diamonds’ tag.
Hopefully for the Kiwis he can bounce back and put in a good showing for the Four Nations. As he has shown in the past he has his awful games but when he’s on he is one of the best strike weapons New Zealand has and they’ll be hoping that SKD can unearth some of that diamond quality performance when they next face Australia.
Tries: Darius Boyd (9m), Greg Inglis (14m,69m), Valentine Holmes (45m), Boyd Cordner (77m)
Goals: Johnathan Thurston 3/5
New Zealand– 6
Tries: Kevin Proctor (22m)
Goals: Issac Luke 1/1