Tri - Nations off to explosive

New Zealand and Australia today drew 16-16 in a pulsating opening Tri-Nations rugby league test in Auckland.

It was only the second draw between the trans-Tasman rivals in 102 tests.

Each team scored three tries and the match ended with drop goal attempts at both ends.

The teams now travel to London, where they will meet again in seven days.

At a wet and windy North Harbour Stadium, New Zealand made the expected impassioned start and had the better of the opening exchanges.

They were rewarded when five-eighth Vinnie Anderson crossed after just five minutes.

Anderson was set up by an interchange of passing between halfback Thomas Leuluia and skipper Ruben Wiki and a long ball from fullback Brent Webb.

It was his third try in two tests at North Harbour Stadium having got a brace on debut in the Kiwis' 30-16 victory over Australia last October.

From there, however, the Australians began to dominate possession and scored three tries inn eight minutes down the right side of New Zealand's defence.

In the 13th minute, new cap Luke Rooney finished of a 50m move.

Four minutes later, Kangaroo skipper Darren Lockyer's well-timed pass put fullback Anthony Minichiello in space, which he exploited to cross over.

Rooney then grabbed his second after a slick Australian backline move.

Lockyer converted two of the tries to give the visitors a 16-6 lead and the contest began to take on a lopsided look.

But six minutes before halftime, a good kick by Webb gave New Zealand superb field position.

New cap Louis Anderson took advantage by burrowing over from dummy half.

Webb's second conversion pulled the Kiwis to within four points at halftime.

New Zealand almost added to their tally seven minutes after the restart when interchange forward David Kidwell burrowed over from dummy half but was held up.

However, the home side's confidence was growing.

Eight minutes later, after getting a handover just 15m from the Australian line, the Kiwis drew level when winger Francis Meli dived over from dummy half.

They had a gilt-edged chance to go ahead minutes later, when a superb offload by young lock Sonny Bill Williams was dropped by centre Nigel Vagana with the line open.

With the clock ticking down, Gower twice and Lockyer for Australia and Leuluai missed with field goal attempts.

New Zealand 16 Tries: Vinnie Anderson, Louis Anderson, Francis Meli. Goals: Brent Webb 2

Australia 16 Tries: Luke Rooney 2, Anthony Minichiello. Goals: Darren Lockyer 2