Black Week Remains So, But a Ray of Light Shines
Well the black week for Kiwi sports got blacker on Friday with the Kiwi league side going down 22 - 20 to Australia. However the spectacle and the quality of play made the result almost secondary and the Kiwi public, who were treated to an absolute cliffhanger, will still be wearing smiles.
Absorbing a strong first five minutes of Aussie attack the Kiwis battled into a stiff breeze and looked a little flat making unforced handling errors and throwing the ball away.
About six minutes into the half Mat Rogers scooped up a loose ball and scooted 60 meters for a runaway try which he converted.
Five minutes later it was the Kiwis turn to score with Henry Paul dashing from dummy half to unload to brother Robby who also dashed 60 meters to score. The try went unconverted.
Only two minutes later British referee Russel Smith had to go upstairs to see whether Robby Paul had again crossed only to find he was pulled up an inch short of the line.
Halfway through the the first half Matthew Johns picked up a dropped Kiwi ball and crossed for a converted Australian try and Paul converted two penalties into points for New Zealand.
The Kiwis went to halftime trailing 14 - 10.
From the start of the second half the Kiwis swung straight onto a period of sustained attack although their kicking match remained unsatisfactory for the length of the game.
With no try coming play swung back to the Kiwi line and after three sets right on the line Mat Rogers finally cracked the defence and crossed in the corner. The try was unconverted, taking the score to 18 - 10.
Paul then kicked a penalty right in front after Australians held for too long in the tackle. The same happened again and, when Australians infringed for the third time Darren Britt was given 10 minutes on the sideline. The two following penalties took the score to 18 - 16 with over 15 minutes remaining.
After a tap from a penalty kick prop Joe Vagana stood in a three way tackle and unloaded to brother Nigel who crossed in the corner after a busting run. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful, bouncing back off the upright, leaving the score 20 - 18 in the Kiwis favour.
All was looking good for the Kiwis to lift a test series off Australia for the first time in 46 years until with four minutes on the clock Wendell Sailor managed to bust across the Kiwi line against the run of play. 22 - 20 Australia.
The Kiwis threw everything at the Aussies and with time up on the clock crossed the line only for the video referee to rule the player was held up.
Time and a thrilling defeat to a relieved and exhausted Australian side. Kiwis disillusioned with supporting rugby should take a look at league. The New Zealand side gave their absolute all and treated the fiercely parochial Auckland crowd to a masterful display of quality and commitment.
They may not have lifted the series but they
filled their supporters hearts with