It took extra-time to separate the two sides, locked on twelve points apiece after 80 minutes of play, with five missed drop goal attempts altogether before the decisive play that settled the game in the Kangaroos’ favour.
Jonathon Thurston took full advantage of a gap in the Kiwis’ line by making a break down the centre of the field, and sending a short ball inside for Golden Boot winner Darren Lockyer to cross the try-line and win the game.
Both sides did themselves a great deal of credit in this fantastic game, but that will be little consolation to the Black and White after losing their title; while, by contrast, the Kangaroos will celebrate having won back the title that was theirs twice before.
However, the Green and Gold took the lead once again before long, with Mark Gasnier finding space down the right flank and sending Brent Tate over at the corner, Thurston converting brilliantly from out wide.
Thurston added a second penalty to extend the lead by two, but a fantastically worked try from the Kiwis brought them back into the game; a Brett Webb gathering a sublime Jones chip and sending out an excellent ball for Frank Pritchard to touch down.
The score stayed at 10-6 until the half-time interval, and it was the Black and White that got the second period underway, Iosia Soliola taking full advantage of Nigel Vagana’s short ball to score and level the scores.
Defence was on top from there on, and the only remaining scoring action was to see Thurston and Jones trade penalties once again.
The game drew towards full time with the sides locked at 12-12, Jones failing with two successive drop-goal attempts followed by a Thurston attempt drifting wide of the posts and an Australian try rightly ruled out for a knock on the final hooter.
The first half of extra time saw much of the same, Lockyer’s attempt on goal charged down before Jones sent a third long-range attempt over towards the corner, before Thurston’s break to put Lockyer over the try-line and into the history books.
– by Tony Williams