Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
New Zealand coach Brian McClennan hailed his side?s ?huge? achievement after Australia were finally dethroned as kings of international rugby league.
Hot favourites Australia had not lost a series or tournament since 1978 but were completely outplayed as the Kiwis scored a shock 24-0 win in the Gillette Tri-Nations final at Elland Road.
An early try from Paul Whatuira and two from Manu Vatuvei put the Kiwis well in control early on and the anticipated Kangaroo fightback never materialised as Brent Webb added a fourth touchdown.
It was the first time New Zealand had beaten Australia twice in a single year since 1953 and McClennan viewed it as a big shot in the arm for Kiwi and international rugby league.
McClennan, who was plucked from obscurity to take the coaching job this summer, said: ?This is huge. It is the biggest thing to have happened to New Zealand (rugby) league for sure.
?The players deserve it. We were the rank underdogs from the word go.
?The crowd got behind us, they got a Kiwi chant going. The fans here in England know that this is good for the game.
?The fans will turn up next year now and anything can happen.?
New Zealand were also indebted to another influential display from scrum-half Stacey Jones, who kicked four goals after flying back to Britain from Auckland on Friday following the birth of his third child.
Captain Ruben Wiki was also outstanding on the night he became the first player to reach 50 international caps and was named man of the match.
Wiki said: ?I have had some pretty big moments like when my children were born but this is not far off.
?When the final whistle went I collapsed exhausted but everyone contributed. I was not worried about the 50 Tests.
?I just love playing for my country. It is what is under these jerseys that keeps us ticking over and everyone witnessed that tonight.?
The defeat heaped further sporting disappointment on Australia after losing the Ashes in cricket for the first time in 18 years.
It was also the first time Australia had been nilled in a Test match for 20 years, but beaten coach Wayne Bennett accepted the defeat with good grace.
Bennett said: ?People will be disappointed but they will get on with life. What are they going to do, stop us getting back into Australia?
?Life will go on. We are a big enough nation to take a loss. It was going to come one day, it just happened to be tonight (Saturday) unfortunately.
?We lacked discipline and gave away penalties in the first half. I was confident we could play better than we did in the first half but even though we did play better it didn?t get any better.
?We didn?t give ourselves a chance but they played tremendously well. The players are disappointed because we couldn?t make it a contest.?
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Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this report.
More info: www.tri-nations.com.au Discussion: Tri-Nations Forum at http://forums.leagueunlimited.com/forumdisplay.php?f=130