Kangaroos will be another step up for the Kiwis

23:33, Nov 25 2013
Shaun Johnson
MATCH-WINNER: Shaun Johnson broke English hearts at Wembley last year and he’ll get the chance to do it again next season.

The Kiwis noted the similar ending but the differing aftermath has them fully focused for a confrontation with revenge-seeking Australia in this weekend's world cup rugby league final.

The storyline of the All Blacks joining the Kiwis in stealing a last-gasp win over dogged opponents has been gaining plenty of air in Britain but while Richie McCaw's leg-weary troops can now enjoy summer basking in an unbeaten season, Simon Mannering's men still have one last mountain to climb if they are to ensure New Zealand ends the year dominant in both codes.

A good number of the Kiwis headed to a pub in London to watch the All Blacks win, but attention is now firmly fixed on the final against the Australians at Old Trafford.

Uppermost in their minds will be that the Kiwis have undoubtedly exhausted their get-out-of-jail plays against England and are highly unlikely to find Australia so generous come 3.30am Sunday morning.

While it was a stunning comeback by New Zealand to steal semifinal glory at Wembley, England only have themselves to blame for the defeat. George Burgess put in a needless high tackle on Sonny Bill Williams to concede a penalty with a minute to go and Kevin Sinfield was just plain dumb to run out of the defensive line to try to shut down Johnson, instead opening up the chance for a scene-stealing try from the slippery Warriors half.

The Kangaroos won't make the same mistake and have been near unstoppable of late. In their last four games at this world cup they have scored 210 points and conceded just two.

Are they that good, or is the opposition poor? We probably won't know that until this weekend's final but Australia's dismissal of the minnows has been more impressive than the Kiwis' campaign so far.

Kiwis backrower Elijah Taylor conceded New Zealand need to improve for the final and highlighted the key area.

"Discipline again, there were the penalties that we could have done without," the Penrith-bound Taylor said.

No dispute there. The Kiwis gave away 11 penalties against England, while the hosts were penalised seven times. Against Scotland the week before New Zealand lost the penalty count 8-4. It is only their pool match against Papua New Guinea where they were awarded more penalties than their opposition.

Fullback Kevin Locke pinpointed another area where the Kiwis need to improve, saying they must be more persistent and consistent on attack.

"When England stopped us when we were throwing multiple shots at them, we went into our shell a bit," Locke said. "But we've got to persevere, because it only takes one player to get caught in and then we've got an overlap. So we've got to persevere with our shape."

Meanwhile, there was some good news for the Kiwis yesterday with an X-ray on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's right leg revealing that he hadn't broken his fibula as originally feared.

The joint leading try scorer in the world cup (with England's Ryan Hall on eight), was limping badly for the last five minutes of the semifinal. But he was feeling more comfortable the day after the game and will be monitored through the week. Team medical staff are optimistic he will be fit for the final.


Fairfax Media