Australia 30 New Zealand 18

Moa better: Kiwi prop Sam Moa charges over for a first-half try.

Moa better: Kiwi prop Sam Moa charges over for a first-half try. Photo: Anthony Johnson

History will remember this as one of the great Australian teams, and deservedly so, but in years to come it should not overlook a young and discounted New Zealand line-up that gave the world champions the fright of their lives.

A 16th Test win in a row drew Tim Sheens' side level with Frank Stanton's celebrated team of just over three decades ago and with names like Slater, Inglis, Thurston and Smith among them, it's an era that will not and should not quickly be forgotten.

Bouncing back: the Kangaroos congratulate Brett Morris after the winger's 18th-minute try gave them the lead.

Bouncing back: the Kangaroos congratulate Brett Morris after the winger's 18th-minute try gave them the lead. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Time
80.00
Team
AUS
Score
30
Team
NZ
Score
18
Australia versus New Zealand
View Match Statistics
Players Bird, Morris(2), Inglis, Cronk Tries 5 Tries 3 Players Bromwich, Harris, Moa
Players Thurston 5/5 (100%) Conversions 5 Conversions 3 Players Johnson 3/3 (100%)
Players Penalty goals 0 Penalty goals 0 Players
Players Field goals 0 Field goals 0 Players

A 30-18 triumph in Sydney wasn't their finest hour but still kept intact Australia's untouchable record in the mid-year trans-Tasman international since 1998. However, there will be relief in the camp as well as reflection after the debutant-laden Kiwis threatened an almighty boilover.

Stephen Kearney's lowly rated visitors led by six points at half-time and were still within sight of an upset for the ages inside the final 10 minutes before a couple of late Australian tries averted embarrassment. 

"At no stage did we ever think it was ever going to be a walkover. They're a very proud nation and a proud team. We didn't expect anything less," Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith said. "We just got caught in the blocks and we can't afford to do that coming into the Four Nations at the end of the year. Even though the victory didn't go their way tonight I think they'll take a lot of confidence out of that."

The Kiwis gave the Kangaroos a big scare on Friday night. Click for more photos

Australia v New Zealand

The Kiwis gave the Kangaroos a big scare on Friday night. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Kearney was proud of his plucky over-achievers, who included a hooker who hadn't played the position and a player picked from reserve grade, in the Kiwis' first outing since a 34-2 defeat in the World Cup final last November. The Kiwis were led from the front by outstanding props Jesse Bromwich and Sam Moa.

"If we look at the team as selectors we had jotted down six weeks ago I think there was about four players that played there tonight," he said. "But that gave an opportunity to come in and show what they've got and you saw what they had tonight."

Criticised for a few of his controversial selections, including the omission of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Kearney was vindicated by what transpired on Friday night. "I wasn't trying to make any statement. I wanted to pick a team that I knew would represent our jumper as good as it could," Kearney said. 

The forecast of a cricket score did not deter a healthy crowd of 25,429 showing up at Allianz Stadium for what was a good night for the often-maligned international game. Sheens had implored fans to turn out and witness one of the best ever Australian teams in action and while they were all but giving tickets away it's fair to say they answered the call.

Yet rather than see a procession into the pages of league's record books, they were dished up the bonus serving of a genuine and gripping contest.

The Kiwis, with more stars out than a clear night in the bush, were meant to be the whipping boys and a mere footnote in the making of history but they did not get the memo.

No Sonny Bill Williams, Kieran Foran, Issac Luke or  Waerea-Hargreaves, no worries.  Or so it seemed as Kearney's team took a shock 18-12 lead into half-time.  

With enthusiasm making up for lack of experience, they rocked the world champions with a heady mix of punch and panache with the ball and desperation without it.

If jaws dropped when Sydney Roosters prop Sam Moa steamed over for their third try to put them in front just before the half-hour, backsides all but fell off seats when none other than Greg Inglis was driven helplessly into touch by Penrith's Dean Whare at the other end.

There were fears for a wipeout when the Kiwis' surprise early advantage, secured via crawling front-rower Jesse Bromwich, was erased quickly with Greg Bird coasting over and then Brett Morris scoring the first of a double with ease in what could have passed for a training exercise from the scrum.

But with halfback Shaun Johnson calling the shots and the likes of Bromwich, Moa and Adam Blair aiming up, New Zealand were not about to surrender to expectations.   

Tohu Harris, another from the Craig Bellamy factory at Melbourne, squared the ledger when he reached out and then dummy-half Siliva Havili - a player with only three NRL games behind him - produced a neat reverse pass to send Moa crashing over. For good measure, the big Rooster had won the ball for the Kiwis moments earlier from Bird and run over Boyd Cordner in the lead-up.

Only 20 minutes beforehand Moa had appeared to be in Disneyland after heavy contact, but he wasn’t too shaky as he rumbled like a rollercoaster under the posts.

The fairytale wasn't to be for Kearney's men, though. 

As resourceful as New Zealand had been and as off colour that had rendered the hosts there was also the inescapable thought in the back of the mind that a team with so much firepower would get it right in the end. And so it proved to be.

Morris' second and then a try with 19 minutes left for Inglis, both set up by Billy Slater, restored order, and with seven minutes on the clock Cooper Cronk put the finishing touches on a Josh Morris break to put the Kiwis away.

"The old heads of our sides, they really showed our pride tonight for the jersey that we were wearing," Smith said. "We didn't concede a point in the second half, and that was through effort and determination to make sure we continued what we'd built over the past couple of years.

"They gave our team and certainly the coaching staff a scare early on but it was pleasing with the way we finished. I think we showed why we're a champion side."

Johnathan Thurston limped off in the last few minutes with an ankle problem, giving replacement Daly Cherry-Evans his only game time after sitting out nearly the whole match on the bench. Thurston was later named man of the match.