Kearney: Fortunate Kiwis need to be better

18:03, Nov 24 2013
Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
Sonny Bill Williams makes a charge against Samoa.
Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
Isaac Luke makes a break for New Zealand.
Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
Samoa's Anthony Milford is tackled by Bryson Goodwin, right, and Manu Vatuvei.
Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
Key playmaker Shaun Johnson looks to ignite another Kiwi attack.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson takes a shot at goal during the victory over France.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Kiwis wing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck attempts to skip out of a French tackle.
Bryson Goodwin
Bryson Goodwin dives over for a try in the Kiwis' 48-0 rout of France.
Kiwis haka
New Zealand players perform the haka before taking on France.
Kiwis vs France
The French and New Zealand sides line up for the anthems.
Manu Vatuvei
Manu Vatuvei doesn't like being out-done by team mate Sonny Bill Williams.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams dances past would-be Papua New Guinea tacklers.
Kiwis Haka
The Kiwis perform their haka before going into battle against Papua New Guinea in pool play at the World Cup.
Sam Kasiano
Sam Kasiano barrels through the Papua New Guinean defence during the Kiwis' 56-10 rout.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Two-try scorer Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries to step England's Sean O'Loughlin.
Kevin Locke
Kiwis fullback Kevin Locke gets caught between four English defenders.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson takes a first half kick at goal.
Ryan Hall
England wing Ryan Hall is taken by Kiwis Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Dean Whare.
Brett Ferres
England's Brett Ferres is tackled by Shaun Johnson and another Kiwis defender.
Kiwis haka
The Kiwis perform the haka ahead of their semifinal against England.
Shaun Johnson
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.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson dives over to score in the last minute to rescue the Kiwis.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson leaps into the arms of team-mates after his match-winning conversion.
Issac Luke
Issac Luke leaps in the air in celebration as Shaun Johnson (No 7) and other Kiwis players raise their arms after Johnson's match-winning conversion.
Manu Vatuvei
Kiwis wing Manu Vatuvei is lifted off the ground in the tackle of Jarryd Hayne.
Billy Slater
Billy Slater scores the first try of the final in the tackle of Dean Whare.
Issac Luke
Kiwis hooker Issac Luke is scragged by Australians Paul Gallen and Cameron Smith.
Cooper Cronk
After being denied earlier, Cooper Cronk dives over for a first half try.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams looks up at a sorry-looking scoreboard.
Greg Inglis and Kevin Locke
Kiwis fullback Kevin Locke mishandles the high kick under pressure from Greg Inglis.
Jarryd Hayne and Manu Vatuvei
Jarryd Hayne and Manu Vatuvei compete for a high kick out wide.
Dejected Kiwis
Dejected Kiwis players (from left) Sonny Bill Williams, Dean Whare and Kieran Foran.
Simon Mannering
Kiwis captain Simon Mannering is fended in the face by Paul Gallen.

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney said he never gave up believing that New Zealand could score a try in the dying moments of their Rugby League World Cup semifinal against England to snatch the win.

The 20-18 victory was one of the most thrilling in the history of the World Cup, with New Zealand sneaking it with 20 seconds left on the clock as Shaun Johnson sniffed out a gap in the English defence to grab a try to level the scores and then slotted through the conversion to book a place in the final.

They will play Australia at Old Trafford next weekend, with the Kangaroos thrashing Fiji 64-0 in the second game of the double-header at Wembley.

Issac Luke
JUBILATION: Issac Luke leaps in the air in celebration as Shaun Johnson (No 7) and other Kiwis players raise their arms after Johnson's match-winning conversion.

Speaking after the emotionally charged game, Kearney said he never gave up hope.

"I was always confident that if we had the footy with a minute to go and we were down by four points that we had the ability to come up with something," Kearney said.

"But the 79 minutes before that were pretty hard.

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"Shaun is part of a group. He would understand that for a period of the second half when England had 11 sets and we had two, that his forwards were giving him the opportunity to come up with that play. 

"You wouldn't have been thinking about it with half a minute to go but for me that was a really telling point.

"I don't think we played very well today but we hung in there and gave ourselves a chance with a minute to go. That's a real positive. 

"England were very unfortunate. They got the ball over the try line and we kept turning them away. Take nothing away from their performance. I thought England were outstanding."

Kearney was asked what it was like for him to watch the last few minutes of the game and admitted it was a tense time.

"I was under the desk," he joked. 

"It was mixed emotions. I think we feel fortunate to come up with the play. 

"The opportunity presented itself and Shaun was good enough to take it. 

"But we need to be better. There were parts of our game which were difficult to watch, there's no doubt about that."

Kiwis captain Simon Mannering says there wasn't any specific messages that went out from him towards the end of the game, because all of the players knew what needed to be done.

"It was almost second nature," Mannering said. 

"There were a lot of guys out there with a lot of experience and have played in a lot of big games and know what it takes to win them. 

"You try to train yourself for those sorts of situations but it's never quite the same when you are out there. 

"You just try to go through your processes and get to your spots on the field. 

"There's no point in trying to come up with something new at a crucial time with not much time to go. That's what it felt like out there. A bit of second nature. Leading up to it, we did pretty much everything we are trained to do."

Fairfax Media