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Australia opened their Four Nations account on a high, defeating New Zealand 26-12 in the opening match of the 2011 Four Nations in front of 12,491 fans at Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington.
It didn't take long for Australia to assert their dominance over their Trans-Tasman cousins with Matt Scott making his way through some weak defence to open Australia's scoring in just the second minute. Thurston converted and Australia had a lead they would not let go of for the remainder of the match.
New Zealand put in some probing attacking efforts, but good defence from Australia and their own ill discipline denied them. Australia on the other hand just needed enough of a sniff to extend the lead. This was provided by a Nightingale dropped bomb in the the 28th minute.
The video referee Ben Thaler was called on to deliberate on a possible Tony Williams try in the 29th minute. His effort was given the green light and Thurston's boot extended Australia's lead to 12 points to nothing. Penalties against New Zealand helped Australia to the bulk of the ensuing possession.
Australia turned this possession into the final try of the half in the 37th minute when Tony Williams made a break to create try for Johnathan Thurston. His own try proved to be his only missed conversion. Australia proceeded to take their commanding 16-nil lead into the interval.
New Zealand made a stunning entry to the contest in the second half and at a point really looked like stealing victory, but it wasn't to be their night. The second half did however show some positive signs for the rest of New Zealand's Four Nations campaign.
New Zealand claimed their first points of the match in the 48th minute, a Jason Nightingale effort needed adjudication by video referee Ben Thaler. It was awarded and Marshall's boot turned four points to six to put New Zealand right back into the match.
The 56th minute saw New Zealand cross for their second try to put a come back well and truly on the cards. Fai-Fai Loa claimed this try and Marshall booted over a conversion to put the Kiwis within four points of the Australians.
With the threat of defeat looming, Australia kicked back into gear and crossed for their first try of the second 40 in the 65th minute, when the ball was spread wide to help Darius Boyd to a soft try. JT's boot was perfect on this occasion, nailing a difficult conversion to help extend Australia's lead back to ten.
New Zealand looked to prove their fightback wasn't over with a freakish acrobatic effort in the 71st minute. Thaler couldn't however award the try as a foot had gone into touch prior to the touch down.
In the 76th minute Australia had a more positive trip upstairs to the video referee when he found in favour of Akuila Uate who was awarded the final points of the game. His were to be the final points as Thurston made his second miss of the night.
Australia left with a convincing 26-12 victory over New Zealand to get their campaign off to the best of starts. New Zealand can take some positives out of the game, but will have to wait for their first victory of the tournament.
New Zealand take on Wales next weekend, and Australia will play England.
Australia 26 defeated New Zealand 12
Four Nations - Four Nations Week 1 - Saturday October 29, 2011 6:00am
Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington
Referee: Phil Bentham
Video Referee: Ben Thaler
Touch Judges: James Child and Paul Holland
Halftime: Australia 16 New Zealand 0
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Billy Slater
2 Points - Cameron Smith
1 Point - Paul Gallen
Tries: Tony Williams, Akuila Uate, Johnathan Thurston, Darius Boyd, Matthew Scott
Conversions: Johnathan Thurston (3/5)
NEW ZEALAND (12)
Tries: Jason Nightingale, Kalifa Fai-Fai Loa
Conversions: Benji Marshall (2/2)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good morning and thank you for joining us for the opening game of the 2011 Four Nations. It's going to be a big game for both sides and could very well determine who will acquire the first final spot.
1 min: Referee Phil Bentham blows time on and Australia are given the first use of the football.
1 min: PENALTY to the Kangaroos on the last and Australia are handed a fantastic attacking opportunity early.
4 min: TRY
TRY to the Kangaroos!
Mat Scott barges through some ordinary dfence for his first try in the green and gold. Thurston has the goal kicking duties and makes no mistake with the boot.
5 min: Australia are making big metres with ball in hand, but get to the sixth incident free this time and New Zealand are given their first use of the football.
7 min: Uate knocks on a bomb 15 out from his own line and New Zealand are gifted a scrum in optimal attacking zone.
8 min: Australia's goal line defence is very strong and keeps New Zealand out, the tiny England in goal zones help a grubber roll dead for an Australian 20 metre tap.
10 min: We're beginning to get a real contest up the middle now, with better defence from both sides in their own halves.
12 min: PENALTY to New Zealand, against Thaiday for a flop to piggy back them up field.
13 min: And the opportunity is squandered with a Luke knock on.
14 min: The dropsies may be contagious as Australia fail to complete their set.
16 min: The Kiwis deny themselves when a pass is intercepted by Mat Scott about ten metres out from the Australian line.
17 min: A bit of biff and Australia have been awarded a PENALTY for a late challenge on the kicker.
17 min: Watmough loses a ball in the tackle about ten out to let the Kiwis off the hook.
18 min: The error is compounded when Australia are PENALISED for being inside the ten.
19 min: New Zealand are probing the Australian line but an error 5 out robs themselves of the chance to convert it to points.
21 min: Matulino loses the ball in a tackle and Australia are gifted an opportunity to extend their lead.
23 min: The referees are doing a commendable job here and this game is being played at a very quick pace.
25 min: New Zealand are right on the attack with a bit of help from Australian dropped ball.
25 min: And Thurston picks up an intercept a couple of metres out.
28 min: Nightingale goes up to collect a short bomb, but comes down without it to gift Australia an opportunity ten out.
29 min: VIDEO REFEREE for a possible Australia TRY.
30 min: TRY
Try to the Kangaroos!
The ball is sent out wide to Tony Williams and he bursts through the defence to score his first test try. Thurston converts.
32 min: New Zealand are PENALISED for being offside 20 out from their own line to help Australia make their way to the opposite end of the field.
34 min: Uate comes close to scoring in the corner, but puts a foot on the sideline before ge gets to the try line.
36 min: Foran is PENALISED for a high tackle on Slater and Australia have had the bulk of the possession for a while now.
39 min: TRY
TRY to the Kangaroos!
Tony Williams makes a break and passes it to Thurston on his inside, Thurston rolls over and finds the line despite the attention of Mannering. Thurston fails to convert his own try.
40 min: It's half time and Australia lead New Zealand 16 points to nil.
41 min: Second half under way.
43 min: The Kiwis are fighting hard to be the first to score in this second half.
44 min: Some exciting but sloppy play from New Zealand sees them put on some tantalising football only to turn over the football.
47 min: Australia have not had a particularly good opening to the half and now the hand the Kiwis another opportunity with some dropped ball.
48 min: VIDEO REFEREE for a possible New Zealand TRY.
49 min: TRY
TRY to the Kiwis!
A cross field kick is pounced on by Nightingale to score New Zealand's first try of the match. Benji Marshall converts the try.
53 min: New Zealand are starting to really take this game to the Australians.
57 min: TRY
TRY to the Kiwis!
Cross field kick does the trick again, this time it goes through some hands to see New Zealand out-manoeuvre Australia to put Fai-Fai Loa in to score. Marshal converts.
59 min: PENALTY to the Kiwis who are now being helped into contesting this game by some Australian ill-discipline.
60 min: New Zealand continue to threaten the Kangaroos' line before Slater steals the ball away and streaks off with it.
63 min: There has been a long delay in play with Kevin Locke receiving medical attention on the field.
66 min: TRY
TRY to the Kangaroos!
Australia go in for a soft try on the left flank through Darius Boyd. Thurston slots in a difficult conversion.
68 min: Thurston knocks on an attempted intercept 5 metres out to gift New Zealand an opportunity to hit back.
69 min: New Zealand throw the ball away cheaply.
70 min: Shillington appears to be in agony, he is on the ground clutching at his groin.
71 min: VIDEO REFEREE for a possible New Zealand TRY.
71 min: NO TRY! Some insane acrobatics is denied by a foot on the line.
75 min: A fair few turnovers over the past few minutes and Australia have all but clinched the game.
76 min: VIDEO REFEREE for a possible Australian TRY.
77 min: TRY
TRY to the Kangaroos!
Safe to say an Australian victory has been sealed as Uate crosses for a four pointer. Thurston's boot is waived away.
80 min: Australia come close to putting another nail in the Kiwi coffin but spill the ball to deny themselves.
80 min: And that will be the game, Australia have taken a 26-12 victory over the Kiwis.