Four Nations New Zealand 22-18 Australia

Four Nations New Zealand 22-18 Australia

New Zealand won their second Four Nations title as Shaun Johnson shone in a thrilling 22-18 win over Australia.

Michael Jennings put Australia in front after pouncing on an error but Jason Nightingale hit back for New Zealand.

Manu Vatuvei squeezed over after great work from Johnson for a half-time lead and though Sione Mata’utia crossed, Johnson’s magnificent solo effort and Vatuvei’s second took the Kiwis clear.

Ben Hunt cut the gap to four points and Mata’utia fumbled a chance to win it.

With time almost up, the 18-year-old might have snatched victory for the defending champions but knocked on close to the try-line in Wellington.

BBC Sport pundits on the finalJamie Peacock: “It was a great final and indicative of the way this tournament has gone. Very competitive and compelling and New Zealand deserved to win in the end. Australia came out and started well but New Zealand’s size and talent allowed them to get back into the game.”Jon Wilkin: “New Zealand look the most poawerful and skilful rugby league team in the world at the moment. To watch Australia getting dominated in the first game and to get beaten in the final again, maybe we have seen a changing in the tide.”Ian Millward: “We unearthed some new superstars of the game in this tournament but we also unearthed a team that had to have quality to beat an Australian team that weren’t going to give it up easily. Quality all over and this has been a tournament with a worthy winner.”

It was half-back Johnson, who scored the laast-gasp try against England in last year’s World Cup semi-final, that was the catalyst for the hosts with his skill and pace, aided by the brutal running of the forward pack.

“We’d waited quite a while for this and I’m just so proud of the boys. It’s a dream come true,” he said.

“We worked so hard this tour. It’s been such an awesome tournament for the boys and to finish it off like that has just been unreal.”

The triumph enabled Stephen Kearney’s side to record back-to-back wins against the Kangaroos for the first time since 1953, following their 30-12 win in the first game of a high-class competition, which they also won in 2010.

Kearney added: “We’ve got a great young team and the future’s bright. Australia are going to keep coming back at us and the challenge is for us to keep improving.”

World champions Australia, decimated by injury before the tournament and disrupted by illness in the build-up to match, led early on as Jennings was quickest to react to touch down but they were then overrun by a rampant New Zealand team.




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