Shaun Johnson rescues Kiwis at the death

DAVID LONG IN LONDON
Last updated 10:09 24/11/2013
Dejected Kiwis
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Dejected Kiwis players (from left) Sonny Bill Williams, Dean Whare and Kieran Foran.
Shaun Johnson
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MATCH-WINNER: Kiwis players pile on Shaun Johnson after his match-trying try, before he converted to send New Zealand into the Rugby League World Cup final.

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Shaun Johnson scored the most important try of his life to give the Kiwis an incredible 20-18 win over England and book the team's place in next weekend's Rugby League World Cup final.

Trailing 18-14, the Kiwis' reign as world champions looked almost certain to be over as the minutes and seconds ticked away, but from the last play possible Johnson came up with the goods for a try that will go down in New Zealand rugby league folklore.

There were two minutes to go and the Kiwis were 40m from the English line with time for just one more attack.

After England were penalised for a high tackle on Sonny Bill Williams, Johnson got the winner, side-stepping two England defenders for the try, then kicking the conversion to win.

New Zealand march onwards to the final, where they will face Australia, who demolished Fiji 64-0 in the second semifinal.

It was a tense game throughout, right from when Sam Tomkins saved England in the fourth minute, by just managing to kick the ball away from Issac Luke as he attempted to ground it.

The Kiwis came close to scoring again a minute later but Jason Nightingale was driven out a metre from the line.

New Zealand continued to have the early pressure, but they weren't the first to score, as it was England's Sean O'Loughlin who crossed the line in the 16th minute after Sam Burgess sucked in two Kiwis before offloading to the English lock.

For the first time since a brief period in their opening game against Samoa, the Kiwis were rattled. As the momentum swung England's way silly mistakes appeared in their game and even Williams was playing poorly.

England stretched their lead to eight points with a penalty to Kevin Sinfield in the 25th minute, but five minutes later New Zealand scored an incredible try, Luke's long pass looked like going out, but Dean Whare showed miraculous skill to pluck the ball out of the air and flick it back to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for his seventh try of the tournament.

A minute before the break Shaun Johnson slotted a penalty, which meant that the game was all locked up at 8-8 at the end of a gripping first half.

Three minutes into the second half Tuivasa-Sheck got his second try, showing more of his quick footwork and strength to get past two England players.

In the 52nd minute a second Johnson stretched the Kiwis lead with his second penalty, to make the score 14-8. There were the five penalties in a row England conceded and ill discipline like that will always cost a team.

Kallum Watkins scored a try for England and in the 57th minute, but Sinfield missed the simple conversion. However, not long after the hosts were back in front when Sam Burgess powered over.

New Zealand had their chances late in the game but just weren't clinical enough and it look like this tournament would end in tears, but with just 15 seconds to go, Johnson burst through the England defence.

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New Zealand 20 (Roger Tuivasa-Scheck 2, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson 4 goals) England 18 (Sean O'Loughlin, Kallum Watkins, Sam Burgess tries; Kevin Sinfield 3 goals). HT: 8-8

- © Fairfax NZ News

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