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Hmmm, weetabix. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, the opening ceremony game between two of the favourites for the title. I’m really looking forward to this, as I think the Kiwis should be over that little spell of mediocrity they had last year.
Australia (from): Billy Slater, Joel Monaghan, Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, Brent Tate, Darren Lockyer (captain), Jonathan Thurston, Petero Civoniceva, Cameron Smith, Steve Price, Glenn Stewart, Anthony Laffranchi, Paul Gallen.
Replacements: Brent Kite, Josh Perry, Anthony Tupou, Kurt Gidley.
New Zealand: Lance Hohaia, Sam Perrett, Steve Matai, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Benji Marshall, Thomas Leuluai, Nathan Cayless (captain), Nathan Fien, Adam Blair, Simon Mannering, Sika Manu, Jeremy Smith.
Replacements: Dene Halatau, Greg Eastwood, Setaimata Sa, Sam Rapira.
Of course, we have the opening ceremony to navigate through first. *sigh*
Oh FFS. What is this BS with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman? A quick check on IMDB indicates that it’s a trailer for a film. Really, ARL? A trailer for a film? I’m not expecting flying balls of people or anything, but that’s just crass commericalism at its dumbest.
Some cool if overlong Aborigine demonstration is now followed by a terrible, terrible song from Izzy off Neighbours. GET ON WITH THE GAME!
Ah, there we go. The teams are running out and we are on!
AUSTRALIA 30 – 6 NEW ZEALAND
0 mins: The Kiwis kick off and start at a real intensity. Australia still manage to kick the ball dead through the in-goal.
3 mins: Australia are nicely mixing up one-up hits with long spreading passing moves. Lockyer puts a high bounce and NZ let it hit the ground, but it bounces dead.
6 mins: Australia start offloading at will the put Inglis down the left channel on the 5th, but he drops the ball.
7 mins: Oops! Nathan Fien kicks the ball straight out. The ‘roos get a scrum in midfield.
8 mins: PENALTY Johnathan Thurston
That scrum is quickly followed by a penalty for interference. Australia decide to take the kick and Thurston slots it over.
AUS 2 – 0 NZ
12 mins: Oooh. Australia start spreading the ball wide again, and as Paul Gallen cuts back in he receives a nice serving of forearm from Steve Matai. Australia choose to run this time.
14 mins: TRY Greg Inglis CONVERSION Thurston
Australia lay siege on the Kiwis try line, and to start with the defence seems up to the task. However Matai misses a tackle on Inglis and he waltzes in for a try. Thurston adds a touchline conversion.
AUS 8 – 0 NZ
18 mins: Thurston nearly pulls off his patented Sho’N’Go, but the pass to Glenn Stewart is knocked on.
20 mins: NZ waste an attacking set with a terrible Fein grubber kick.
22 mins: Fein gives away a penalty for a high tackle. The Kiwis really need to calm down with their discipline. Oh look, the next tackle sees them concede a penalty for ball-stealing.
24 mins: New Zealand get lucky as a sweeping left to right passing move sees Folau dive over the line, only for him to drop the ball under pressure from good scrambling defence.
26 mins TRY Sika Manu CONVERSION Steve Matai
Benji gets involved in the game at last, putting an inside ball to Sika Manu who walks in through some pretty lacklustre attempts at tackling from the Kangaroos. A try out of nothing really, but that’s New Zealand’s only real attempt at an attack so far. Matai puts over the easy conversion.
AUS 8 – 6 NZ
29 mins: TRY Joel Monaghan CONVERSION Thurston
Australia again work space down the flank, and Monaghan just finds enough room to go over, despite the attentions of Matai and Blair. The video ref is call on, but he cannot make a call and gives it back to the ref. He decides to give the try.
AUS 14 – 6 NZ
33 mins: Hmm. The Kiwis put a move on close to the Aussie line, adn with the defenders closing in Perrett puts in a grubber which goes off Slater and into touch. The ref gives head and feed to Australia, claiming the ball played the man. No so sure myself.
37 mins: Australia again stretch the Kiwis, but Slater’s pass to an open Brent Tate is miles forward and knocked on anyway.
39 mins: Australia and New Zealand take it in turns to knock the ball on whilst attacking from midfield, and that takes us to the break.
HALF TIME: Australia 14 – 6 New Zealand
Well, it’s been pretty much one way traffic so far, and Australia have looked mildly threatening without ver quite breaking away. New Zealand will not be happy with that first-half performance, but they won’t mind only being eight points behind. This game really could do with one team upping the intensity. The Kiwis need to keep their focus and avoid silly mistakes, particularly disciplinary ones.
40 mins: The game restarts. The Kiwis seem to be throwing it wider.
42 mins: Australia nearly break down the right, only for Folau to throw a stupid pass which luckily for him lands with Slater eventually. The ball goes out left and Lockyer makes a nice break and nearly puts Inglis away, but Perrett proves equal to the task. Australia then drop the ball on the line.
44 mins: Marshall puts in a grubber kick from his 40, and Thurston covers but receives a tackle from Hohaia for his troubles. The Kiwis are getting more tricky.
45 mins: Huh. New Zealand do well to hold out the Aussie attack on the line, but keep getting fended off by Inglis and co. before Australia put in an ineffectual kick.
47 mins TRY Folau
New Zealand give up an interception in their own half, and Folau is able to barge his way over from a few metres out, carrying two defenders with him. Thurston misses his first kick of the game.
AUS 18 – 6 NZ
52 mins: Lockyer puts up a high kick to Hohaia, and makes the mistake of chasing it up as the ball is passed to Manu Vatuvei who knocks him right over. Folau manages to keep hold of him but keeps on too long, and gives away the penalty. New Zealand fail to do anything with it.
56 mins: Australia are really frustrating here. They are clearly the better side but they just can’t hold onto the final pass, as Brent Tate knocks on during an assault down the right flank.
60 mins: TRY Slater CONVERSION Thurston
Thurston makes a break and for some reason no Kiwi is able to touch him. When he is finally caught he throws out a back-hand pass which hits Slater’s knee. Slater runs onto the ball for a clear run-in. Again, Thurston adds the kick.
AUS 24 – 6 NZ
63 mins: New Zealand almost seem to have given up, as the Australians have carved them up at will, only for the Kiwis to put in some scrambling cover defence. An Australian try is disallowed for a double-movement.
65 mins: D’oh! Manu Vatuvei knocks on in-goal.
67 mins: Again, Australia should score, but Greg Inglis drops it in the process of running over the line. Smith touches down the spilt ball claiming a one-on-one strip, but the video ref is having none of it.
71 mins: Australia seem to be doing the same inside pass move every time, and it seems to work every time.
74 mins: What? Jerome Ropati appears to have scored, only for Billy Slater to slide tackle the ball out of his hands. I would have thought that would count as an illegal strip, but the video ref sees it as a knock-on and so it’s 20m restart.
76 mins: This game is petering out.
78 mins: Inglis puts in a nice chip, which Hohaia has to run dead into touch.
79 mins: TRY Folau CONVERSION Thurston
Tupou gets an offload away, and Slater puts on a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pass to Folau who runs into the corner for his second try. Thurston gets the kick again, and it’s game over.
FINAL SCORE: Australia 30 – 6 New Zealand
Not the best game really. New Zealand were poor and seemed to be lacking direction and most surprisingly fight, as they were physically dominated by the ‘roos. Australia had patches of brilliance, but for the most part they just did enough. Room for improvement in both sides.
I’ll do an aftermath of both of today’s games later, but I’ve got a visit to Wembley this afternoon so it will have to wait.