Kiwis aim to end Australia reign


Published: Friday 14th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Reputations will go on the line when Australia defend their Four Nations crown against New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday.

Veteran coach Tim Sheens guided the Kangaroos to back-to-back Four Nations triumphs since their shock defeat to the Kiwis in the 2009 final and 12 months ago helped them regain the World Cup in a one-sided final at Old Trafford.

Sheens enjoys a proud record of 26 wins from his 29 matches in charge while captain Cameron Smith has experienced defeat just once since succeeding Darren Lockyer at the helm three years ago.

But that 30-12 defeat to New Zealand last month demonstrated the vulnerability of the 2014 team and t he unbeaten Kiwis are now gunning for first back-to-back wins over Australia for 60 years.

The New Zealand pack will be confident of once more getting the edge over their lightweight opponents and in Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran the Kiwis have the best half-back pairing in the game.

And, for the first time since the one-off Tri-Nations Series in 1999, New Zealand will have home advantage for the final and the support of a bumper crowd at the Westpac Stadium.

Sheens’ men were labelled the worst team to represent Australia in living memory when they went down to the Kiwis in the tournament opener in Brisbane but there were clearly extenuating circumstances for their scoreless second-half performance.

Already lacking 10 members of the side which beat the Kiwis in May through injury and suspension, Australia were forced to play the last 40 minutes at the Suncorp Stadium without in-form full-back Greg Inglis and stand-off Daly Cherry-Evans because of illness and injury respectively.

But the introduction of giant Canterbury Bulldogs prop David Klemmer and Brisbane half-back Ben Hunt for the second game against England helped rectify the weaknesses in the Kangaroos team and a fully-fit Inglis tore the Samoans apart in their final round-robin match.

Inglis, who was moved from centre when Billy Slater pulled out, has been the star of the show so far and he is the man the Kiwis must stop if they are to get their hands on the trophy.

Stephen Kearney’s men struggled to follow up their impressive opening win, labouring to two-point victories over Samoa and England, but their defence has been superb in what is shaping up to be their best tournament yet and they have a chance to apply the icing at the stadium affectionately known as the Cake Tin.

New Zealand: P Hiku (Manly), J Nightingale (St George Illawarra), S Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters), D Whare (Penrith), M Vatuvei (New Zealand Warriors); K Foran (Manly), S Johnson (New Zealand Warriors); J Bromwich (Melbourne), I Luke (South Sydney), A Blair (Wests Tigers), S Mannering (New Zealand Warriors, capt), K Proctor (Melbourne), J Taumalolo (North Queensland).

Replacements: L Brown (Penrith), G Eastwood (Canterbury Bulldogs), M Taupau (Wests Tigers), T Harris (Melbourne).

Australia: G Inglis (South Sydney); J Mansour (Penrith), M Jennings (Sydney Roosters), D Walker (South Sydney), S Mata’utia (Newcastle); D Cherry-Evans (Manly), C Cronk (Melbourne); A Woods (Wests Tigers), C Smith (Melbourne, capt), J Papalii (Canberra), S Thaiday (Brisbane), G Bird (Gold Coast), C Parker (Brisbane).

Replacements (from): B Cordner (Sydney Roosters), R Farah (Wests Tigers), A Guerra (Sydney Roosters), R Hoffman (Melbourne), B Hunt (Brisbane), D Klemmer (Canterbury Bulldogs), J Jackson (Canterbury Bulldogs).

Referee: P Bentham (England).

Published: Friday 14th November 2014 by The News Editor

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