Australia outlasted the Kiwis to rescue a Test in which they had trailed for more than an hour. Dazzling rugby from a New Zealand side, who arrive on tour in Britain this week, saw them threaten a major upset in the first half in Wellington, when they led by 12 points at one stage.
But the Kangaroos' greater know-how and stamina got them home with two tries in four minutes, as the Kiwis simply ran out of fuel – but not before showing what formidable opposition they will be next month.
"It's certainly going to be entertaining," said the Great Britain coach, David Waite. "Anyone who loves rugby league will love the way New Zealand play. It's a huge challenge for us."
The Kiwis started in breath-taking fashion, with their hooker, Richard Swain, grabbing an opportunist try from dummy half and kicking two goals. But they could never quite get away from Australia, who replied with the first of Matthew Gidley's tries, converted by the debutant, Hazem El Masri.
A combination of aggressive tackling and adventurous ball-handling kept the Kiwis in front, however, with Stacey Jones scooting over and Matt Utai scoring a fine try in his first Test appearance. But Stephen Kearney knocked on from Australia's kick-off and was punished when Gidley got over for his second.
Wonderful handling from Scott Hill and Aussie captain, Gorden Tallis, set up Willie Mason to reduce the deficit to two points, but a tremendous break by Swain released Clinton Toopi to stretch that advantage before half-time.
The 25,000 crowd sensed the possibility of a rare Kiwi win over their neighbours from across the Tasman, but the second half belonged emphatically to the Australians. Timana Tahu touched down after regathering a chip over his opposing wingman and, after 63 minutes, they hit the front for the first time when Hill spun out of a weary tackle for the game's pivotal try.
The Kiwis' last chance disappeared when Utai just failed to take an interception that could have put them back in the lead and instead saw Kennedy go through a depleted defence.
"They got away with a ground-out win," said Australian-born Waite of his fellow-countrymen, adding that he had seen some weaknesses in the Kiwis' game. Even in the second half, they all still wanted to throw the ball around and it cost them."
The Kiwis finished the game with two problems which could follow them to Britain. Jones, an inspirational losing captain, ended the Test hampered by a shoulder injury, while the second-rower, Ali Lauiti'iti, was placed on report for a clumsy high tackle that ended Brent Tate's involvement. Any suspension will keep him out of the lead-up games on the British tour, which opens at Hull on 22 November.
New Zealand: Vaealeki; Utai, Vagana, Toopi, Fa'afili; Hohaiha, Jones; Seu Seu, Swain, Rauhihi, Lauiti'iti, Wiki, Kearney. Subs used: Tony, Lomu, Guttenbeil, Solomona.
Australia: Tahu; El Masri, Gidley, Tate, Tahu; Barrett, Kimmorley; Webcke, Buderus, Stevens, Kennedy, Tallis, Hill. Subs used: Wing, Fitzgibbon, Menzies, Mason.
Referee: B Harrigan (Australia).
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