By Matt Harris (NRL.com)
New Zealand has stunned a wounded Kangaroos side to take out their opening Four Nations match 30-12 in front of a passionate crowd of over 47,000 at Suncorp Stadium.
The Kangaroos had no answer for a passionate and enthusiastic Kiwi outfit that kept the hosts scoreless in the second half after score was locked up at 12-12 at the break.
Australia's cause wasn't helped by the fact they were reduced to only 15 men in the second half after Daly Cherry-Evans hobbled off in the 36th minute with a lower back issue and then Greg Inglis succumbed to dizziness at the break.
While they were down on men in key areas, the Kangaroos were their own worst enemy with 42 missed tackles and 14 errors during the match, consigning them to only their third defeat in 37 Test matches.
Led by halfback Shaun Johnson, the Kiwis scored two tries within four second-half minutes to take them out to a 24-12 lead with 29 minutes to go. Winger Jason Nightingale sealed the result with a try 11 minutes from fulltime.
New Zealand took the lead for good in the 47th minute courtesy of some clever work by Johnson.
The Kiwis had the hosts on the back foot after a strong 30-metre run by Greg Eastwood and from the resulting play, Johnson regathered his own grubber kick to score next to the posts.
Three minutes later New Zealand doubled their lead when Kieran Foran sent a sky-high bomb in the direction of centre Dean Whare, who outleapt Michael Jennings to take them out to more than a converted try.
New Zealand were denied a third-straight try in the 56th minute to due Jason Taumalolo using his shoulder to take out Cooper Cronk in the lead-up play but it was no doubt the Kangaroos struggled with the visitors' ad-lib style of high-tempo football.
Johnson continued to pull the strings and it was his spiralling bomb which led to the match-sealing try through Jason Nightingale in the 68th minute.
Switching to fullback in Inglis's absence, Dylan Walker couldn’t handle Johnson's rain-maker, spilling the ball into the path of Martin Taupau who spun the ball out towards Nightingale's wing for New Zealand's fifth try.
The sublime Johnson nailed another conversion from out wide to take the Kiwi's out to an unassailable 30-12 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
The Kangaroos only needed two minutes to post first points after taking advantage of a spilt bomb by Kiwi winger Gerard Beale off the boot of Cronk.
Cronk was involved again in the resulting set, combining with Smith to send Beau Scott through a hole and the Knights back-rower planted the ball down for the opening try and a 6-0 lead.
Shaun Johnson's 40/20 in the 15th minute allowed New Zealand their first attacking foray into Australia's territory.
Moments later the Kiwi's appeared to have crossed out wide for their opening try via Jason Nightingale, but a closer inspection by video referee Ian Smith indicated that the Dragons winger had lost the ball over the line while attempting to ground the ball with his right hand.
Not deterred by bombing a try minutes earlier, New Zealand continued to attack Australia's line and were rewarded for their persistence when Kevin Proctor muscled his way over the line, levelling the score at 6-6 in the 18th minute after Johnson's conversion.
Strong runs by interchange forwards Josh Papalii and Corey Parker laid the foundation for Greg Inglis to collect the ball from dummy-half, leap towards the try-line with the ball stretched out in one hand and slam the Steeden down for Australia to hit back.
Smith made no mistake with the conversion to take his side out to a 12-6 lead in the 22nd minute.
The see-sawing contest continued when Kiwi interchange Lewis Brown steamrolled Daly Cherry-Evans in a one-on-one tackle to lock the score up at 12-12.
Five minutes before half-time Cherry-Evans went down injured, clutching at his left hip and hobbling off to be replaced by Robbie Farah.
New Zealand 30. Tries: Proctor, Brown, Johnson, Whare, Nightingale. Goals: Johnson (5/5).
Australia 12. Tries: Scott, Inglis. Goals: Smith (2/2)