Words by Chris Kennedy , National Correspondent , NRL.com
Despite a late scare from some Shaun Johnson magic, the Kangaroos hung on to record their second win of the Four Nations, holding out New Zealand 14-8 at Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
Kiwis scoring woes continue
At half time, trailing 10-0, New Zealand's 200 minutes of Test football against Australia in 2016 had netted them just a solitary try – to Kevin Proctor in Perth last month.
Their two second-half tries amounted to more four-pointer than in their previous five halves of football against the Kangaroos combined.
Despite winning the offloads 15-8 and completing an impressive 81 per cent with 30 of 37 sets completed, the Kiwis couldn't find the big play in their opponent's red zone. Some early soft defensive misses ensured they were trying to play catch up from early on and allowed the Kangaroos to dictate terms.
In the first half they completed 16 of 18 sets but still trailed the possession stat by 54 per cent to 46 per cent.
Five-eighth Thomas Leuluai and fullback Jordan Kahu both aimed up but failed to provide the sort of playmaking support halfback Shaun Johnson requires.
Ferguson silences doubters
The continued selection of Roosters back Blake Ferguson on the Kangaroos right wing has been one of the more debated decisions of Mal Meninga's tenure as Australia coach. There were whispers this week that specialist right-side flanker Valentine Holmes would return to the 17 to bump him out, with specialist left-edge winger, the in-form Josh Mansour, no chance of being dropped.
A knee injury at training that ended Mansour's tournament ensured Holmes and Ferguson both played and, after a strong outing against Scotland last week, Ferguson backed it up with a powerful man-of-the-match outing against the Kiwis.
A surging, tackle-busting long-range run in just the sixth minute set the tone. For the second game running he opened the scoring and had plenty to do when he beat three to score in the right corner in the ninth minute off the back of some good Michael Morgan lead-up work. His exceptional support play helped set up Johnathan Thurston for the team's second try just five minutes later and he also did the business off the ball, coming up with a big tackle on Gerard Beale to force a line drop-out later in the half.
A surging 60th-minute run, when he beat five players to miraculously escape from his own in-goal, was arguably the most important and impressive play he produced on the night in which he finished up with game-highs in run metres (228) and tackle busts (eight). The loss of Mansour is still a shattering one but Ferguson's form ensures it shouldn't be too costly in terms of this tournament.
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