Rugby League: Sailor floats past to frustrate Kiwis
Saturday 06 November 1999
AUSTRALIA HUNG on to the crown they have held for so many years as official or unofficial world champions, but only by the narrowest of margins at the end of a game that hummed and buzzed with tension and quality.
With four minutes to play at Auckland's Ericsson Stadium, the Kiwis seemed to have the Tri-Series won and an end within sight to their decades of frustration against their neighbours. But then Brett Kimmorley ran at the New Zealand defence and Brad Fittler and Matthew Johns both handled impeccably to send Wendell Sailor in at the corner. Even then, New Zealand almost snatched it back at the death, Logan Swann getting under Henry Paul's kick and almost forcing his way through a heap of bodies to get it over the line.
Typically, there were no whinges from the Kiwis. "It wasn't a try," said Henry's brother, Robbie, gesturing with thumb and forefinger. "It was about that far off the line, but it wasn't a try. There was no obstruction in the build-up either. I'm not going to moan."
The Pauls had been one of the strengths of the Kiwis as they went so close to deposing Australia, Henry's pass and Robbie's gloriously timed run levelling the scores after the Kangaroos had taken an early lead. Even the try conceded had a touch of Kiwi flair about it, Stephen Kearney's off-load and Henry Paul's speculative pass being brilliantly picked off by Mat Rogers from a stunning 70-metre interception.
Australia, with a strong wind behind them, went ahead again when Jason Lowrie dropped the ball on the first tackle, Rogers ran at the defensive line and lovely handling from Darren Smith and Darren Lockyer released Johns. If the Great Britain side who had played earlier in the evening wondered what top-class rugby league was all about, this might have provided a clue.
Two penalties from Henry Paul, against one by Rogers, left the home side four points in arrears at the break, but a ferocious spell of pressure after half-time saw that lead doubled, when Lockyer - who had earlier spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin - linked with Matthew Gidley for Rogers to go in.
But any inferiority complex the Kiwis might have about Australia is a thing of the past. They roared back at Australia with a sustained assault that brought three penalties for Henry Paul and a sin-binning for Darren Britt as the Aussies clung on desperately - and literally. With Britt off the field, New Zealand chose to run rather than kick yet another penalty and Joe Vagana's storming run set up his cousin, Nigel, for the try that put them ahead for the first time. Henry Paul, like Lockyer before him, hit the post with his conversion attempt, a miss that would prove so very costly.
But the Kiwis had nothing to reproach themselves for; they lost by the same margin they had won by in the opening game of the series and that sums up the balance of power. Not that that was much consolation to the likes of Robbie Paul, for whom the narrow defeat brought back too many memories of domestic frustrations with Bradford.
"Pipped at the post again, like two Grand Finals; so close and so far away," he said. "I'm sick of being good enough; I want to be the best. It's a hard thing to come so close and lose."
For the Australian coach, Chris Anderson, it was "a really gutsy effort to come back after going behind for the first time so close to the end, even if it wasn't the prettiest of wins."
It showed that the Aussies remain sheer bloody murder to beat, however well you play against them. It also showed the standard Great Britain much reach if they are to beat either of these sides. Perhaps it was a good thing they were back at their hotel; on current form, they did not belong at the same stadium.
NEW ZEALAND: Barnett (Sydney City); N Vagana (Auckland), Wiki (Canberra), Talau (Canterbury), Vainikolo (Canberra); H Paul (Bradford), R Paul (Bradford); J Vagana (Auckland), Swain (Melbourne), C Smith (St George-Illawarra), Kearney (Melbourne), Rua (Melbourne), Swann (Auckland). Substitutes used: Ngamu (Huddersfield-Sheffield), Lowrie (Balmain), Cayless (Parramatta), Kidwell (Parramatta).
AUSTRALIA: Lockyer (Brisbane); Rogers (Cronulla), D Smith (Canterbury), Gidley (Newcastle), Sailor (Brisbane); Johns (Newcastle), Kimmorley (Melbourne); Stevens (Cronulla), Gower (Penrith), Britt (Canterbury), Fletcher (Sydney City), Kosef (Manly), Fittler (Sydney City). Substitutes used: J Smith (Parramatta), Girdler (Penrith), Vella (Parramatta), Timmins (St George- Illawarra).
Referee: R Smith (England).
Latest in Sport
James Rodriguez to Real Madrid: Would Colombian star fit in with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale?
William Carvalho to Arsenal? Gunners make new enquiry for £35m rated midfielder
Manchester United transfer news: More signings expected, indicates Ed Woodward
WWE Battleground 2014 results: John Cena and The Miz are the big winners on a night to forget in Tampa, Florida
Chelsea transfer news: Completed summer deals - including Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas
- 1 Husband creates spreadsheet detailing wife's 'excuses' for turning down sex
- 2 Apple has installed security backdoors on 600m iPhones and iPads, claims security researcher
- 3 Saneie Masilela, 9, marries Helen Shabangu, 53 years his senior, for the second time
- 4 UK pirates will get four warning letters a year
- 5 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
£45,000 to £55,000: IT Connections Ltd: C++ Software Developer / Image Process...
£30,000 to £40,000: IT Connections Ltd: Java / J2EE Developer / Agile / Linux ...
£45,000 to £55,000: IT Connections Ltd: Software Development Manager / Java / ...
£24000 - £28000 per annum: Charter Selection: Leading Nationwide and important...