Gower and Lockyer under pressure to
lift performance

Coach Wayne Bennett expects his halves combination of Darren Lockyer and Craig Gower to lift a notch on Saturday when Australia faces New Zealand in the second Tri-Nations rugby league test.

Considering the short 6m in-goals at North Harbour Stadium, the kicking game of Lockyer and Gower was reasonably accurate in the 16-all draw with a physical Kiwis outfit yesterday in the opening Tri-Nations game.

But their passing was not as crisp as usual in wet conditions and the pair missed several field goals attempts in the dying minutes that would have sealed a win.

"They can do that a lot better and they can play a lot better together," said Bennett.

Prop Jason Ryles said the Kangaroos would be more formidable this weekend at Loftus Road Stadium in London against a Kiwis side missing star trio Joe Galuvao, Tony Puletua and Matt Utai, who have returned to Australia to undergo season-ending surgery.

"Everyone was in the same boat," said the St George Illawarra forward.

"They weren't all that familiar with each other. I think we'll be better for the run and we'll know what to expect next week.

"Hopefully we can get a bit more cohesive in attack. I thought we defended pretty well.

"They got two tries from dummy half, which was a bit of luck on their part."

Bennett said he was particularly pleased with the performance of hooker Danny Buderus, who played the back-end of the NRL season with a badly infected toe.

"He's had a busted toe and hasn't been able to train for five weeks," said the Brisbane mentor.

"I thought his performance and work rate was tremendous.

"He's just a class player. He seemed to do things out there and I think 'I haven't seen anybody do that for a long time'."

Bennett also praised the efforts of winger Luke Rooney, who scored two tries on debut for Australia, and centres Willie Tonga and Shaun Berrigan.

New Zealand selectors have drafted into their squad English-based players Lesley Vainikolo, Robbie Paul, Shontayne Hape, Logan Swann and Ali Lauitiiti, who all took part in this morning's (AEST) Super League grand final between Leeds and Bradford.

Australia and New Zealand shared the points and are equal on the Tri-Nations table, with Great Britain preparing for their opening clash against Australia on October 30 in Manchester.

It sets up an intriguing battle for the trans-Tasman rivals in the return leg at London.

In the dressing rooms after Saturday's torrid match - which featured plenty of big hits - the Kiwis appeared satisfied with the draw but the Australians' mood was far less upbeat.

Leading 16-6 after 22 minutes, the Kangaroos had plenty of opportunities to put New Zealand away but they made several costly errors which was understandable considering the greasy surface and lack of match action of players whose NRL season ended weeks ago.

The under-strength Kiwis can be proud of the way they stood up to the Australian onslaught, especially considering they fielded three 19-year-olds in Sonny Bill Williams, Thomas Leuluai and debutant Louis Anderson.

Pint-sized halfback Leuluai was promoted into the test side from the Bartercard Cup competition and, despite being targeted by the Kangaroos, stood up to the challenge.

Williams spoke about the tight bond the Kiwis have forged and the confidence it breeds in the camp.

"All week there was a lot of confidence in the team," said Williams, who confirmed his status as a cult figure in the game with another superb effort in only his second test.

"All the boys, when we come together we just click.

"It's like we've known each other for all our lives."

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