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Australia's win may seem comprehensive but it took them 26 minutes to get any points on the board.
It was the Kiwis who had all the chances in the first 20 minutes but failed to capitalize on them as time after time they were blocked by the resistant Aussie defence. James Koloamantangi came closest to scoring but was held up after crossing the line.
It was Australian winger Jordan Atkins who broke the deadlock scoring after an excellent moving involving Chad Buckby and Clint Lovering.
Following an interception, a 90-metre run from Kevin Stephenson four minutes later made it 10-0 while Atkins ran through for his second in the 35th minute to make it 16-0.
George Taungu got a try back for New Zealand with one second left on the clock before half-time but Australian's Nathan Tilley forced his way over minutes after the break to regain the home side's 16-point advantage.
Stephenson ran 50 metres for his second following a Kiwi knock-on and Chris Fleming extended Australia's lead to 28 after scoring under the sticks with 17 minutes to go.
However the Kiwis got two tries back in the last 13 minutes through Mike Nathan and Paul Aitkens. Aitkens could have had a second but was held up over the line with just seconds remaining.
"The first 20 minutes was what won us the game," said Australian coach Steve Calder. "We didn't make a handling error and our defence was very solid. The only worry was that we started to drop off a few tackles late in the match when we got a bit tired."
Wales face Australia on Sunday knowing that a 56 point win will send the Dragons through to the semi-finals. Anything less and the Welsh will have to rely on Scotland beating New Zealand on the same day.
AUSTRALIA: John Crawley, Nathan Tolley, Jordan Atkins, James Rahme, Kevin Stephenson, Sam Williams, Chad Buckby, George Ghazal, Chris Fleming, Quin Smith, Luke Hilton, Matt McKimmon, Clint Lovering. Subs (all used): Tony Hampson, Shane Wooden, Ben Groves, John Ellis, Ali Kourouche, Mitch Gaal.
Tries: Atkins (26, 70), Stephenson (30, 58), Tolley (48), Fleming (63) Goals: Lovering 3/5, Crawley 1/1
NEW ZEALAND: Paul Aitkens, Sam Jacobsen, Andreas Bayer, Mike Nathan, Tim Cahill, Mike Craig, Jamie McDonald, Chris Tupou, Jimmy O?Brien, Henry Heke, James Kolomantangi, George Taunga, Andrew Auimatagi. Subs (all used): Daniel McGregor, Tala Paleaasini, Aina Masina, Adam Donaldson, Daniel Bell, Sione Taynyn.
Tries: Taunga (40), Nathan (67), Aitkins (71) Goals: O'Brien 1/2, Paleaasini 0/1 Referee: Geoff Hilton (England) Half-time: 16-4 Men of the match: Australia: Tony Hampson. New Zealand: Paul Aitkens Gamestar: Tony Hampson for a first class all round performance in attack and defence. Gamebreaker: Australia's excellent defensive performance in the first 20 minutes gave them confidence and demoralised the Kiwis who never marshalled a serious attack for an hour afterwards.