Kearney: Fortunate Kiwis need to be better

DAVID LONG IN LONDON
Last updated 12:27 24/11/2013
Issac Luke
Getty Images
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.

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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.

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.

"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."

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