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October 14, 2018

Kiwis stave off late Kangaroos rally for ‘surreal’ win


October 14, 2018

WELLINGTON: New Zealand and Australia entered a new rugby league era in Auckland on Saturday, with new captains and new faces, and the fresh look brought a new result too with the Kiwis prevailing 26-24.

It was the first time in six years that New Zealand have beaten their nearest neighbours and reigning World champions.

Australia mounted a desperate late attack with two tries in the closing five minutes before running out of time.

“It’s unbelievable, surreal,” Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who was captaining New Zealand for the first time, said after the five tries to four victory.

“This is the start. We’ve set the foundation now, so we’ve got to keep building on top of that.”

Debutants were central figures in the outcome with Joseph Manu and Brandon Smith both scoring tries for New Zealand.

James Tedesco, one of four new faces in the Australian side, scored for the Kangaroos as they rallied from 26-12 down.

Australia hit the front in the second minute with a well taken try by Valentine Holmes and regained the lead 12-8 on the stroke of half-time with a try to Dane Gagai, a late addition to the Kangaroos squad.

The 27-year-old South Sydney Rabbitohs flyer only made the squad in a reshuffle when original skipper Greg Inglis was suspended after being caught allegedly drink driving, which saw Boyd Cordner promoted to captain.

It was a tough introduction to Test leadership for Cordner but given the disrupted build-up for Australia, he was not too surprised by the outcome.

“We didn’t give ourselves much chance but we stuck in there and it was a tight finish,” he said.

“It was pretty disappointing, our ball control, and we showed when we held it we can score some points.”

For New Zealand, Ken Maumolo, Manu, Smith, Esan Masters and Jordan Rapana scored tries with Shaun Johnson landing three goals.

Holmes, Gagai, Felise Kaufusi and Tedesco scored for Australia with Holmes kicking all four goals.

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