New Zealand have advanced to the 2008 Rugby League World Cup final with a gripping 32-22 victory over England in front of 26,000 fans at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
In a complete reversal of last weeks encounter it was New Zealand who had the better start, leaping out to a 16-0 lead by the 22nd minute thanks to some clever work around the ruck by the Kiwi halves. Thomas Leuluai was looking right at home in the #9 jumper, while Nathan Fien kept things under control with a strong kicking game behind a dominant forward performance.
Two Kiwi tries in a three-minute period looked to have blown the game out of the water but England responded in the best way possible by rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in, with captain Jamie Peacock leading the way with a barge-over try to open his teams account. A well worked scrum move gave Danny McGuire a crucial try right on the stroke of halftime, and the first half finished with a 16-10 scoreline in favour of the Kiwis.
The second half was a real game of punch and counter-punch - neither side could gain an advantage until Bronson Harrison burst through the English defensive line to open up a 22-10 lead, but that just sparked the Lions into action. Martin Gleeson reduced the Kiwi lead back to 6 points shortly afterwards and both sides lifted noticeably as the game drew to an exciting close.
The Kiwis looked to have sealed the result when Jerome Ropati capitalised on a couple of English fumbles to score in the 68th minute but a nice individual try to Danny McGuire gave England the faintest glimmer of hope - until Benji Marshall finally put the result beyond doubt with a try right in the corner, capping off a strong performance from the mercurial five-eighth.
For a match cynically referred to by some as Like