New Zealand 12-20 Australia

The post-Darren Lockyer era started with a 20-12 win for Australia over New Zealand at Eden Park.

It was the first time Australia had visited New Zealand in a mid-season international for 14 years, the last time the ANZAC Test was held across the Tasman Sea.

New Zealand took early advantage of the home atmosphere as Australia took their time getting into the game.

Jeremy Smith came close to putting the first points on the board in the 10th minute but was held short of the line. From the next play New Zealand forced a knock on from Johnathan Thurston which gave the Kiwis an extra set deep in the Kangaroos’ half.

Isaac Luke was able to capitalise, forcing the Australians to go to the left at dummy half as he span around and grounded the ball underneath the posts.

The Australians gained momentum after going 6-0 down through Billy Slater’s break and offload to Cooper Cronk. However the Kiwis stopped the Australians getting anywhere near the home side’s try line when Sean Kenny-Dowall intercepted Luke Lewis’ pass.

It took Australia until the 21st minute to put their first points on the score board and equalise. Akuila Uate came close to scoring in the corner, but two plays later the Kiwis allowed Thurston to dance around their defence and score close to the posts.

Australia went ahead on the back of the slick passing that only the Aussies can pull off. Thurston’s pass to Billy Slater presented the Kangaroos with a three-on-two attacking opportunity which Greg Inglis was able to score from in the corner.

New Zealand had a sense of déjà vu back to the 2008 World Cup final when it appeared Billy Slater had prevented Alex Glenn from scoring a certain try. Referee Richard Silverwood took the decision upstairs, and despite the penalty try being denied Slater was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.

Australia ended the half eight points ahead after Nathan Fien was penalised for a high tackle. Thurston kicked the goal on the stroke of half time.

New Zealand started the second half perfectly when Johnson intercepted Cronk’s pass and ran the remaining 90 metres to touch down at the other end of the field.

Australia could have extended their lead on the 57th minute when Justin Hodges found space along the right wing. However the New Zealand defence was too good for the centre, and this forced Hodges to attempt an offload to his winger Akuila Uate, who couldn’t collect the pass offload cleanly.

With just over 10 minutes left to play Cameron Smith was able to squeeze over the try line. After Cronk was held short, Smith tried to kick gently into the Kiwi’s in-goal. The ball rebounded off a New Zealand defender before Smith was able to re-gather it and touch down amid a pile of black and white defenders.

Smith’s try was the death knell for New Zealand. The Australians hung on to continue their dominance over their rivals, and become the first side to win the mid-season ANZAC Test away from home since it began in 1997.

New Zealand scores: Tries – Luke, Johnson. Goals – Marshall (2)

Australia scores: Tries – Thurston, Inglis, Smith. Goals – Thurston (4)

New Zealand: Hoffman; Nightingale, Kenny-Dowall, Mannering, Vatuvei; Marshall, Johnson; McKendry, Luke, Matulino; Pritchard, Blair, Smith. Subs: Fien, Waerea-Hargreaves, Bromwich, Glenn.

Australia: Slater; Boyd, Inglis, Hodges, Uate; Thurston, Cronk; Gallen, Smith, Shillington; Taylor, Thaiday, Lewis. Subs: Cherry-Evans, Hannant, Tamou, Watmough.

Sin bin: Slater (33)

Half time: 6-14

Referee: Richard Silverwood

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