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Four Nations review: Kiwis look the goods

Steve Kaless Roar Guru

By Steve Kaless, Steve Kaless is a Roar Guru

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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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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • October 26th 2009 @ 6:48am
      Mr cheese said | October 26th 2009 @ 6:48am | ! Report

      There is only one l in the surname of Baile, methinks.

      It will be interesting to see how many tickets they can see for the RL international in Toulouse. Their team’s average in the National League One is around 2,000. The aristocrats of Stade Toulouse rugby union club cast a long shadow, me semble-t-il.

      By the way, Steve, do Australian people really see the average Frenchman as an “effeminate figure riding a bicycle while smoking a long cigarette” ???? That’s a bit like people over here saying that Aussie has no culture. Apart from anything else, the government brought in an anti-smoking ban a couple of years ago ( in public places, at least ).

      As for the bicycles, they’re no good at these days. The Grande Boucle is more likely to be won by an Aussie ( Cadel Evans ) than by a Frenchman. 24 years and counting…..

      Best wishes,

    • October 26th 2009 @ 8:36am
      The Link said | October 26th 2009 @ 8:36am | ! Report

      A strong Kiwis is essential to the future of international RL and for the game in NZ to pull itself off the canvas post SPARC review. The starch and enthusiasm in defence was a sign of a real cohesive unit. The key for them now is consistency. Could this be the next big rivalry after State of Origin in RL?

      Key question to decide the 4 nations is do the Kiwis have another gear on top of this performance? Rest assured the Aussies were stuck in 2nd for most of the game. A re-match in 3 weeks looks assured.

    • Roar Guru

      October 26th 2009 @ 9:09am
      M1tch said | October 26th 2009 @ 9:09am | ! Report

      Id expect the Toulose game to get something like 8000

      One of their last tests against England got 12 000

    • October 26th 2009 @ 10:20am
      Alan Nicolea said | October 26th 2009 @ 10:20am | ! Report

      Steve

      Indeed NZ’s performance was the best thing that happened to the Roosters in 2009. Hargreaves is a star in the making while Frank Paul Nuuasala ran the ball with verve that i have not seen in Roosters colours yet. They will all be better players for this experience and i am now looking forward to 2010 with a little more optimism!!!!!!

      • October 26th 2009 @ 10:42am
        The Link said | October 26th 2009 @ 10:42am | ! Report

        Waerea-Hargreaves is an interesting example of player development. If he had stayed in Rugby, its highly likely he’d have been playing Super 14 2 years ago, but would’ve this been the best thing for his development? Contrast this to Manly’s approach, Des Halser brought him slowly through the ranks via the Toyota Cup side. He played a handful of first grade games at Manly but he has had the chance to build his physique and understanding of top level football without being under the microscope of first grade all this time. This is similar to how Steve Folks treated SBW at the Dogs.

    • October 26th 2009 @ 11:16am
      oikee said | October 26th 2009 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      Yes, WHG is (hard-graves) is something else, he and Adam Blair seem to do it with ease. Not to mention the other big boppers who all seem to have legs like 40 pound sledgehammers. 🙂

    • Roar Guru

      October 26th 2009 @ 12:16pm
      Hoy said | October 26th 2009 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

      WHG looks a fair bit bigger than when he was playing ARC. He looks like he spent the two years in lower grades pushing tin in the gym.

      I said elsewhere that I was sad not to see him playing for the last two years since the ARC. All the talk when he signed for League was that he was of the ilk of SBW, however I think he is probably not as mobile now, due to massive bulk being put on. At the time it might have been right, as he was a pretty mobile flanker, but I doubt he has the ball skills of SBW.

      Also, Link, it is a bit different that he has grown up playing Ruggers, and so he might have been right playing super 14 two years ago. He certainly would have been under the pump playing league straight away, and probably wouldn’t have made it then. What I am trying to say is I find it infinitely more interesting the way League differs from Union in the way they bring players through Grade, teaching them the game, rather than what Rugby does in this country, and announce the League convert signing and then give them a jersey straight away, before even knowing if they have any rugby nouse what-so-ever.

      League way makes much more sense, but then when money is involved, sense often isn’t hey?

      • October 26th 2009 @ 4:30pm
        The Link said | October 26th 2009 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

        Hoy – wasn’t he a golfer or something and took up RU pretty late in the piece?

        • Roar Guru

          October 26th 2009 @ 7:36pm
          Hoy said | October 26th 2009 @ 7:36pm | ! Report

          Whoa, you might be right. Bit different, but then not as different as Chess with Joe Roff.

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