Four Nations review: Kiwis look the goods

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New Zealand's Nathan Fien, right, tackles Australia's Johnathan Thurston, left, during their Four Nations rugby league match at the Stoop Stadium, London, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Tom Hevezi)

New Zealand's Nathan Fien, right, tackles Australia's Johnathan Thurston, left, during their Four Nations rugby league match at the Stoop Stadium, London, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Tom Hevezi)

It was a good weekend for the underdogs in the Four Nations, and it’s almost beyond comprehension that England finished top of the table after their first forty minutes against France.

Without question the side that most impressed over the weekend was New Zealand.

Hit hard by injuries, the Kiwis showed their World Cup victory was no fluke as they went to within two minutes of recording another victory against the Aussies.

It would have been a deserved win as well on the back of a five star defensive effort.

Stephen Kearney added further to his growing reputation with his effort, the Melbourne Storm assistant must surely be the best coach not to have a head coaching job.

The Kiwis forwards certainly matched their Australian counterparts and their backs stood up to the superstars in green and gold.

Junior Sa’u backed his choice in the centres with a physical showing, but if any player symbolises the mystical powers of a New Zealand jumper then surely it is Lance Hohaia.

Another outstanding performance from a player who rarely grabs the headlines at club level but seems to grow in stature when he puts on the New Zealand jumper, and looks be forming a habit of scoring great individual tries against the Aussies.

Frank Pritchard’s effort also rates a mention (clearly his confidence was up after being named in the Roar team of 2009!), he was a real handful lurking on the fringes of the ruck.

While Jared Waerea-Hargreaves’ all action performance by the Sydney Roosters bound youngster was probably the first piece of good news to reach Bondi Junction in a fair while.

For all of their possession, the Australians struggled to give the famed backline any real quality ball. Jarryd Hayne was largely anonymous and Brett Morris had a debut to forget, except for his try.

On Friday night, the French looked set to cause the mother of all upsets as they took a 12-4 lead at halftime, only to be overwhelmed in the second half by a resurgent England side.

Anyone still holding the stereotype of a French male as an effeminate figure riding a bicycle while smoking a long cigarette needs to have a look at the French forward pack; size is certainly not a shortcoming.

Discipline is tough. Needless penalties cost them dearly and trips to the judiciary for David Ferriol and Jean Phillipe Baille could land a hammer blow on their chances against the Kiwis in Toulouse.

England breathed a sigh of relief with their victory and will be looking to build on their second half performance; they must also take heart from the Kangaroos’ far from invincible form on Saturday.

But, much to chagrin of England fans, while the New Zealand jersey seem to improve their players’ ability, the English jersey seem to drain them of any previous form.

Tony Smith will be searching far and wide for the answer as they face the old enemy in Wigan on Saturday.

The pies will be hot, let’s hope the action will be as well.

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