For much of tonight’s test between Australia and New Zealand in Melbourne, it teemed down. Unfortunately for 29,500 spectators it wasn’t raining tries in Australia’s 12-8 victory.
While the weather put paid to what most were expecting to be a high scoring match, it still was an enthralling encounter with a solid defensive effort from both sides.
This led both teams to examine the possibilities of finding openings up the middle of the ruck, particularly in the first half. And both sides were able to gain easy metres in this manner but at the same time each side usually managed to close down the others attacking forays into enemy territory.
It was tit for tat over the first thirty minutes with neither side able to break the deadlock. It wasn’t until the 31st minute that Australia was able to put first points on the board. Even then, it was only through a penalty to Jamie Lyon that they gained a 2-0 lead.
Despite being a tight affair, there was always a feeling that Australia were slowly but surely getting on top. Greg Inglis had looked most likely to bust the game open, but on the few occasions that he did bust the line the Kiwi’s somehow managed to bring him down. How they coped, it is hard to comprehend. What wouldn’t be hard to believe though, is if Kiwi Coach Stephen Kearney was green with envy at the talent the Australian’s had at their disposal in Inglis.
Kearney might have been suffering from other emotions in the 36th minute as centre Steve Matai temporarily lost his marbles with a senseless late tackle on Billy Slater. Surprise surprise, it led to a try to Australian winger Brett Morris after Darren Lockyer put a grubber kick through into the Kiwi’s in goal, which Morris gratefully gathered to touchdown in the left corner. With the conversion attempt missed Australia went into the half-time break with a 6-0 lead.
If the first half had not provided much in the way of scoring highlights, then the second stanza started off promisingly with Morris securing his second try of the evening in the 46th minute. With Lyon’s conversion from the sideline and a 12-0 score line, it looked like the floodgates were about to open.
To New Zealand’s credit, however, they hung in and gradually fought their way back into the match. It took twenty minutes and some help from English referee Richard Silverwood, who conjured up some peculiar rulings. He looked to be seriously out of his depth and a good argument could be made for appointing one of the NRL’s top referees. Luckily for New Zealand though, the calls tended to go their way. After what appeared to be a knock on from the Kiwi’s, Silverwood instead gave a scrum feed to New Zealand in the 66th minute. On the fourth tackle Benji Marshall fired a long ball out to winger Jason Nightingale who dived over in the left corner. Isaac Luke missed what was a crucial conversion, but at least the Kiwi’s had a glimmer of hope.
That glimmer became considerably brighter in the 77th minute as Junior Sow barged over in the company of two tacklers to bring his side to within four points of their rivals.
With only two minutes on the clock left to play, New Zealand had one last chance, but ran one out too often making themselves easy targets for the defence.
Despite there being some limitations to their play, the Kiwi’s put in a respectable effort to keep an Australian team stacked with talent to a four point margin.
Which wasn’t bad as the Kiwi’s were without several frontline players.