Year-ender: NZ sides fail to fire when it matters

Dejected Kiwis players (from left) Sonny Bill Williams, Dean Whare and Kieran Foran.
Dejected Kiwis players (from left) Sonny Bill Williams, Dean Whare and Kieran Foran.
Kiwis captain Simon Mannering is fended in the face by Paul Gallen.
Kiwis captain Simon Mannering is fended in the face by Paul Gallen.
Kiwis fullback Kevin Locke mishandles the high kick under pressure from Greg Inglis.
Kiwis fullback Kevin Locke mishandles the high kick under pressure from Greg Inglis.
Jarryd Hayne and Manu Vatuvei compete for a high kick out wide.
Jarryd Hayne and Manu Vatuvei compete for a high kick out wide.
Sonny Bill Williams looks up at a sorry-looking scoreboard.
Sonny Bill Williams looks up at a sorry-looking scoreboard.
Kiwis hooker Issac Luke is scragged by Australians Paul Gallen and Cameron Smith.
Kiwis hooker Issac Luke is scragged by Australians Paul Gallen and Cameron Smith.
After being denied earlier, Cooper Cronk dives over for a first half try.
After being denied earlier, Cooper Cronk dives over for a first half try.
Kiwis wing Manu Vatuvei is lifted off the ground in the tackle of Jarryd Hayne.
Kiwis wing Manu Vatuvei is lifted off the ground in the tackle of Jarryd Hayne.
Billy Slater scores the first try of the final in the tackle of Dean Whare.
Billy Slater scores the first try of the final in the tackle of Dean Whare.
Shaun Johnson dives over to score in the last minute to rescue the Kiwis.
Shaun Johnson dives over to score in the last minute to rescue the Kiwis.
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.
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.
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.
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 leaps into the arms of team-mates after his match-winning conversion.
Shaun Johnson leaps into the arms of team-mates after his match-winning conversion.
The Kiwis perform the haka ahead of their semifinal against England.
The Kiwis perform the haka ahead of their semifinal against England.
England wing Ryan Hall is taken by Kiwis Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Dean Whare.
England wing Ryan Hall is taken by Kiwis Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Dean Whare.
Shaun Johnson takes a first half kick at goal.
Shaun Johnson takes a first half kick at goal.
Kiwis fullback Kevin Locke gets caught between four English defenders.
Kiwis fullback Kevin Locke gets caught between four English defenders.
Two-try scorer Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries to step England's Sean O'Loughlin.
Two-try scorer Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries to step England's Sean O'Loughlin.
England's Brett Ferres is tackled by Shaun Johnson and another Kiwis defender.
England's Brett Ferres is tackled by Shaun Johnson and another Kiwis defender.
Sam Kasiano barrels through the Papua New Guinean defence during the Kiwis' 56-10 rout.
Sam Kasiano barrels through the Papua New Guinean defence during the Kiwis' 56-10 rout.
The Kiwis perform their haka before going into battle against Papua New Guinea in pool play at the World Cup.
The Kiwis perform their haka before going into battle against Papua New Guinea in pool play at the World Cup.
Sonny Bill Williams dances past would-be Papua New Guinea tacklers.
Sonny Bill Williams dances past would-be Papua New Guinea tacklers.
Manu Vatuvei doesn't like being out-done by team mate Sonny Bill Williams.
Manu Vatuvei doesn't like being out-done by team mate Sonny Bill Williams.
The French and New Zealand sides line up for the anthems.
The French and New Zealand sides line up for the anthems.
New Zealand players perform the haka before taking on France.
New Zealand players perform the haka before taking on France.
Bryson Goodwin dives over for a try in the Kiwis' 48-0 rout of France.
Bryson Goodwin dives over for a try in the Kiwis' 48-0 rout of France.
Shaun Johnson takes a shot at goal during the victory over France.
Shaun Johnson takes a shot at goal during the victory over France.
Kiwis wing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck attempts to skip out of a French tackle.
Kiwis wing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck attempts to skip out of a French tackle.
Sonny Bill Williams makes a charge against Samoa.
Sonny Bill Williams makes a charge against Samoa.
Isaac Luke makes a break for New Zealand.
Isaac Luke makes a break for New Zealand.
Samoa's Anthony Milford is tackled by Bryson Goodwin, right, and Manu Vatuvei.
Samoa's Anthony Milford is tackled by Bryson Goodwin, right, and Manu Vatuvei.
Key playmaker Shaun Johnson looks to ignite another Kiwi attack.
Key playmaker Shaun Johnson looks to ignite another Kiwi attack.

It was another bumper year of rugby league which naturally climaxed with the Rugby League World Cup final at Old Trafford. Or should that be anticlimaxed, as far as New Zealand were concerned.

Overall, it was a successful tournament with packed out stadia and mostly competitive games throughout. Minnow nations such as Italy, the United States and Scotland impressed, while countries like Samoa, Tonga, France and Wales, who traditionally sit underneath the three powerhouses had poor tournaments.

England were rocked by off-field sagas throughout their campaign, from the dumping of Gareth Hock before the tournament began for breaking rules to go out drinking and then sleeping in the next day - to Rangi Chase walking out on the team ahead of their semifinal against the Kiwis.

For the Kiwis, though, this tournament will be remembered for two reasons; firstly that stunning win against England where Johnson scored a try with 20 seconds left on the clock and then kicked the conversion for the 20-18 victory and, secondly, for being embarrassed in the final 34-2 by Australia.

Certainly, it was a special Kangaroos side that played in the World Cup and there are a number of players in their side who will end up on the Immortals list.

To have any chance of winning the final the Kiwis had to be at their absolute best and they were far from it. Their key players needed to step up, while Williams had to have a huge impact.

As it was, most of the senior players went missing and Williams found himself trying to hard to make something happen.

Ultimately the campaign to defend their world champion status ended in disappointment, but there are enough players in the squad in their early 20s to feel optimistic about what might happen in four years' time.

For the Chinese, 2017 is the next year of the rooster, but in the NRL it came four years early as the Sydney-based Roosters dominated the 2013 competition, taking out the minor premiership and winning the grand final.

From a New Zealand point of view it's notable that it was the Kiwis Sonny Bill Williams, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves who all stood out as the team's best players.

In the case of Tuivasa-Sheck, 2013 was a season where he not only became a star at his club, but was also voted the NRL's best winger and then the world's best winger at the international awards. But this is just the beginning of what should be an incredible career for the 20-year-old.

Williams, though, took out the ultimate prize and was awarded International Player of the Year.

His comeback to league after a five-year absence was remarkable, yet for a player as talented as him, also predictable. Playing back in the forwards, his offloads were even more devastating than they were in rugby, while he is able to read a game and organise a defence better than ever before.

In the grand final the Roosters beat Manly Sea Eagles 26-18, but despite being on the losing side Sea Eagles halfback Daly Cherry-Evans picked up the man of the match award.

For the Warriors it was the epitome of an up and down season.

They won just two of their first 10 games, with their 62-6 defeat to the Panthers in round 10 being the biggest loss in the club's history.

Seven wins from eight games followed to get the Warriors back in the hunt for a place in the top eight, but disappointingly, when it mattered the most they went flat again.

Warriors coach Matt Elliott would have just about earned a pass mark from the campaign, but that's mainly due to the fact that this was a squad he inherited, rather than created.

Next year there won't be any ready-made excuses, especially as they have broken the world record for a transfer fee in spending a reported $1 million to bring in Sam Tomkins from Wigan.

Players like Ngani Laumape, Glen Fisiiahi, Konrad Hurrell and Suia Matagi all confirmed their status as exciting prospects. Simon Mannering, Thomas Leuluai and Jacob Lillyman impressed, but Shaun Johnson, Kevin Locke and Feleti Mateo frustrated with erratic performances.

The deciding game in the State of Origin series was a 12-10 nailbiting win for Queensland, played in front of 83,813 spectators at Stadium Australia, the biggest crowd at the venue since its reconfiguration.

Domestically, the Akarana Falcons defeated Counties Manukau Stingrays 22-12 for their fourth straight New Zealand premiership title in October. 

Manu Vatuvei reacts after the loss to the Sea Eagles.
Manu Vatuvei reacts after the loss to the Sea Eagles.
Kevin Locke chases down a loose ball during the Warriors' loss to the Sea Eagles.
Kevin Locke chases down a loose ball during the Warriors' loss to the Sea Eagles.
Ngani Laumape touches down for a try against the Sea Eagles.
Ngani Laumape touches down for a try against the Sea Eagles.
Shaun Johnson in action against the Sea Eagles.
Shaun Johnson in action against the Sea Eagles.
Feleti Mateo of the Warriors charges forward against the Storm.
Feleti Mateo of the Warriors charges forward against the Storm.
 Jacob Lillyman of the Warriors offloads to setup another attack.
Jacob Lillyman of the Warriors offloads to setup another attack.
Cooper Cronk of the Melbourne Storm is brought down by strong Warriors defence.
Cooper Cronk of the Melbourne Storm is brought down by strong Warriors defence.
Shaun Johnson scored two tries and kicked four conversions in the win at Leichhardt Oval.
Shaun Johnson scored two tries and kicked four conversions in the win at Leichhardt Oval.
Warriors centre Feleti Mateo is tackled by Blake Ayshford.
Warriors centre Feleti Mateo is tackled by Blake Ayshford.
Shaun Johnson high-fives captain Simon Mannering after his second half try, part of his 16-point haul in the 24-14 win over the Wests Tigers.
Shaun Johnson high-fives captain Simon Mannering after his second half try, part of his 16-point haul in the 24-14 win over the Wests Tigers.
Warriors forward Elijah Taylor is bent back in the tackle of three Wests Tigers players.
Warriors forward Elijah Taylor is bent back in the tackle of three Wests Tigers players.
Suaia Matagi cops a forearm to the nose as he hits the ball up.
Suaia Matagi cops a forearm to the nose as he hits the ball up.
Ben Matulino charges straight into the Wests Tigers defence.
Ben Matulino charges straight into the Wests Tigers defence.
Kevin Locke runs straight into Kiwis team-mate Adam Blair during their match at Leichhardt Oval.
Kevin Locke runs straight into Kiwis team-mate Adam Blair during their match at Leichhardt Oval.
Konrad Hurrell attempts to break the Rabbitohs' defence in Perth.
Konrad Hurrell attempts to break the Rabbitohs' defence in Perth.
Thomas Leuluai makes a break during the Warriors' loss to the Rabbitohs.
Thomas Leuluai makes a break during the Warriors' loss to the Rabbitohs.
Isaac Luke of the Rabbitohs gets tackled by Feleti Mateo of the Warriors.
Isaac Luke of the Rabbitohs gets tackled by Feleti Mateo of the Warriors.
Nathan Merritt of the Rabbitohs gets tackled by Elijah Taylor of the Warriors.
Nathan Merritt of the Rabbitohs gets tackled by Elijah Taylor of the Warriors.
Glen Fisiiahi (left) and Konrad Hurrell celebrate the win over Brisbane Broncos.
Glen Fisiiahi (left) and Konrad Hurrell celebrate the win over Brisbane Broncos.
Kevin Locke is taken in the tackle of a Brisbane Broncos player.
Kevin Locke is taken in the tackle of a Brisbane Broncos player.
Feleti Mateo offloads in the tackle of a Brisbane Broncos player.
Feleti Mateo offloads in the tackle of a Brisbane Broncos player.
Manu Vatuvei celebrates scoring the first against the Brisbane Broncos.
Manu Vatuvei celebrates scoring the first against the Brisbane Broncos.
Elijah Taylor tries to fend off James Maloney during the Warriors' 23-12 win over the Roosters.
Elijah Taylor tries to fend off James Maloney during the Warriors' 23-12 win over the Roosters.
Glen Fisiiahi breaks away to score a try against the Roosters.
Glen Fisiiahi breaks away to score a try against the Roosters.
Sonny Bill Williams tries to escape the Warriors' tackle.
Sonny Bill Williams tries to escape the Warriors' tackle.
Thomas Leuluai gets the kick off as he is tackled by Sonny Bill Williams.
Thomas Leuluai gets the kick off as he is tackled by Sonny Bill Williams.
Anthony Minichello executes a try saving tackle on Ben Matulino.
Anthony Minichello executes a try saving tackle on Ben Matulino.
Konrad Hurrell beats the tackle of Manly's Brent Kite on his way to the tryline for the match-winning try.
Konrad Hurrell beats the tackle of Manly's Brent Kite on his way to the tryline for the match-winning try.
Warriors players (from left) Jacon Lillyman, Simon Mannering and Konrad Hurrell watch replays on the big screen as video refs consider a decision.
Warriors players (from left) Jacon Lillyman, Simon Mannering and Konrad Hurrell watch replays on the big screen as video refs consider a decision.
Manu Vatuvei leaves Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans in his wake.
Manu Vatuvei leaves Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans in his wake.
Manu Vatuvei charges ahead against Manly.
Manu Vatuvei charges ahead against Manly.
Shaun Johnson of the Warriors breaks away from the Bronco's defence.
Shaun Johnson of the Warriors breaks away from the Bronco's defence.
Jordan Kahu of the Warriors blows a kiss to the fans as he celebrates a try against the Broncos.
Jordan Kahu of the Warriors blows a kiss to the fans as he celebrates a try against the Broncos.
The Bronco's Josh Hoffman makes little ground against the Warriors.
The Bronco's Josh Hoffman makes little ground against the Warriors.
Konrad Hurrell touches down for the Warriors against the Broncos.
Konrad Hurrell touches down for the Warriors against the Broncos.
Warrior Kevin Locke arrives at Mt Smart Stadium for an emergency meeting after the team's hammering by the Panthers.
Warrior Kevin Locke arrives at Mt Smart Stadium for an emergency meeting after the team's hammering by the Panthers.
Warriors coach Matthew Elliott arrives at Mt Smart Stadium for an emergency meeting after the team's hammering by the Panthers.
Warriors coach Matthew Elliott arrives at Mt Smart Stadium for an emergency meeting after the team's hammering by the Panthers.
Warriors players arrive at Mt Smart Stadium for an emergency meeting after the team's hammering by the Panthers.
Warriors players arrive at Mt Smart Stadium for an emergency meeting after the team's hammering by the Panthers.
Sam Kasiano of the Bulldogs makes little ground against the Warriors' defence.
Sam Kasiano of the Bulldogs makes little ground against the Warriors' defence.
Manu Vatuvei celebrates with Todd Lowrie after scoring the Warriors' first try against the Bulldogs in Wellington.
Manu Vatuvei celebrates with Todd Lowrie after scoring the Warriors' first try against the Bulldogs in Wellington.
Thomas Leuluai scores for the Warriors against the Bulldogs at Westpac stadium in Wellington.
Thomas Leuluai scores for the Warriors against the Bulldogs at Westpac stadium in Wellington.
The Warriors' Manu Vatuvei and Bulldog Sam Perrett contest for a high ball.
The Warriors' Manu Vatuvei and Bulldog Sam Perrett contest for a high ball.
Feleti Mateo (right) celebrates his try against the Titans with Manu Vatuvei.
Feleti Mateo (right) celebrates his try against the Titans with Manu Vatuvei.
Manu Vatuvei chases the ball into the in-goal.
Manu Vatuvei chases the ball into the in-goal.
Kevin Locke takes on the Titans defence.
Kevin Locke takes on the Titans defence.
Russell Packer charges ahead for the Warriors against the Titans.
Russell Packer charges ahead for the Warriors against the Titans.
Shaun Johnson of the Warriors makes a break against the Melbourne Storm in round seven.
Shaun Johnson of the Warriors makes a break against the Melbourne Storm in round seven.
Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors takes a hit against the Storm.
Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors takes a hit against the Storm.
Shaun Johnson scores for the Warriors against the Storm.
Shaun Johnson scores for the Warriors against the Storm.
Bill Tupou celebrates with teammates after scoring a try for the Warriors against the Storm.
Bill Tupou celebrates with teammates after scoring a try for the Warriors against the Storm.
Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors fends off Jarrod Croker of the Raiders during the round six clash between the sides.
Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors fends off Jarrod Croker of the Raiders during the round six clash between the sides.
Bill Tupou of the Warriors tries to grab a loose ball under pressure from Jarrod Croker of the Raiders.
Bill Tupou of the Warriors tries to grab a loose ball under pressure from Jarrod Croker of the Raiders.
Warrior Kevin Locke on the charge against the Canberra Raiders in round six.
Warrior Kevin Locke on the charge against the Canberra Raiders in round six.
Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors and Jack Wighton of the Raiders contest a high ball during their round six encounter.
Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors and Jack Wighton of the Raiders contest a high ball during their round six encounter.
Ben Matulino of the Warriors dives over to score a try during the round five match with the Rabbitohs.
Ben Matulino of the Warriors dives over to score a try during the round five match with the Rabbitohs.
Manu Vatuvei tries to make the hard yards against the Rabbitohs.
Manu Vatuvei tries to make the hard yards against the Rabbitohs.
Todd Lowrie spins a pass during the round five encounter with the Rabbitohs.
Todd Lowrie spins a pass during the round five encounter with the Rabbitohs.
Ngani Laumape tries to make ground against a wall of Rabbitohs players.
Ngani Laumape tries to make ground against a wall of Rabbitohs players.
Konrad Hurrell escapes the tackle of James Tamou of the Cowboys.
Konrad Hurrell escapes the tackle of James Tamou of the Cowboys.
Feleti Mateo congratulates Shaun Johnson on his try against the Cowboys.
Feleti Mateo congratulates Shaun Johnson on his try against the Cowboys.
Nathan Friend prepares for the tackle against the Cowboys.
Nathan Friend prepares for the tackle against the Cowboys.
Pita Godinet gets a pass away against the Cowboys.
Pita Godinet gets a pass away against the Cowboys.
Thomas Leuluai gets through the tackle of the Sharks' Wade Graham.
Thomas Leuluai gets through the tackle of the Sharks' Wade Graham.
Dane Nielsen attempts to slip through a Sharks tackle.
Dane Nielsen attempts to slip through a Sharks tackle.
Elijah Taylor on the run against the Sharks.
Elijah Taylor on the run against the Sharks.
Sonny Bill Williams makes his return to Eden Park, this time for the Roosters against the Warriors.
Sonny Bill Williams makes his return to Eden Park, this time for the Roosters against the Warriors.
Captain Simon Mannering gets caught in the tackle against the Roosters.
Captain Simon Mannering gets caught in the tackle against the Roosters.
Kevin Locke is tackled by former Warrior James Maloney.
Kevin Locke is tackled by former Warrior James Maloney.
Kevin Locke and Shaun Johnson look on after losing to the Roosters in round two.
Kevin Locke and Shaun Johnson look on after losing to the Roosters in round two.
Ben Matulino on the run against the Eels.
Ben Matulino on the run against the Eels.
Manu Vatuvei absorbs two tackles from the Eels.
Manu Vatuvei absorbs two tackles from the Eels.
Jacob Lillyman touches down in the Warriors opener against the Eels.
Jacob Lillyman touches down in the Warriors opener against the Eels.
Shaun Johnson on the attack against the Eels.
Shaun Johnson on the attack against the Eels.
FUTURE UNCERTAIN: Stephen Kearney is welcome to reapply for his job as Kiwis coach.
FUTURE UNCERTAIN: Stephen Kearney is welcome to reapply for his job as Kiwis coach.

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