New captain Smith steers Aussies' ship off Kiwi rocks

New Zealand 12 Australia 20

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The Independent Online

Australia made a winning start to life after Darren Lockyer but it took a flash of inspiration from his successor as captain, Cameron Smith, to see off brave New Zealand at Auckland's Eden Park.

The Kangaroos were clinging to a 14-12 lead when Smith regathered his own grubber kick close to the New Zealand line and forced his way over for the match-winning try, 11 minutes from the end.

New Zealand had their sights set on a first Anzac Test win since 1998, but Australia took control with two tries in a decisive five-minute spell and did just enough to hang on.

The Kiwis had an early scare when the scrum-half Shaun Johnson, one of four impressive debutants, hurt his shoulder attempting a tackle on the Kangaroos winger Akuila Uate just a minute into the match. Eventually, he was able to continue, as was the Australia prop David Shillington, who needed running repairs to a cut jaw.

New Zealand twice went close before finally opening the scoring. First, their loose forward Jeremy Smith was thrown back from the line, then the prop Sam McKendry was held inches short before Luke dummied his way over from dummy-half on 11 minutes. Benji Marshall's goal made it 6-0, but the Kangaroos soon struck back.

Johnathan Thurston, who has inherited Lockyer's No 6 jersey, took Smith's pass and sidestepped Marshall to touch down midway through the first half. Billy Slater's scything run then got the centre Greg Inglis over. Thurston converted both tries to make it 12-6 but the visitors hit a setback on 32 minutes when they were reduced to 12 men after the English referee, Richard Silverwood, sent Slater to the sin bin for an obstruction on Alex Glenn. The Kiwis claimed a penalty try, but were denied by the video referee.

Australia increased their lead while a man down, courtesy of Thurston's penalty on the stroke of half-time, but the Kiwis cut the gap to 12-14 five minutes into the second half when Johnson intercepted Cooper Cronk's pass and sprinted 80 minutes for his side's second try. A desperate tackle from the Kiwis full-back Josh Hoffman denied centre Justin Hodges as Australia went for the clincher but there was no stopping Smith.

"We didn't get away to such a great start, "he said, "but I'm really pleased with the way we hung in."