Kiwis go down to Kangaroos in tight semifinal

Joseph Manu of the Kiwis is enveloped by the Australian defence during World Cup semifinal in...
Joseph Manu of the Kiwis is enveloped by the Australian defence during World Cup semifinal in Leeds. Photo: Getty Images
You can add this to the long list of heartbreaking Kiwis moments against the Kangaroos.

The New Zealand team produced a superb performance against the world champions, but are out of the World Cup, losing 16-14 in a gripping semifinal at Elland Road.

The Kiwis will rue an inability to make the most of their dominance in possession and territory in the first 50 minutes, as well as the concession of a soft second half try to Cameron Murray, which ultimately decided the game.

New Zealand also had no change from the officials, with several big calls going Australia’s way. The inexperienced English video referee had an unfortunate night — ruling out what could have been a vital Kiwis try early in the second half — while Ashley Klein allowed some shoulder charges to go unpunished.

But ultimately, it was one that got away. After a superb first half — where they surprised Australia with an expansive game and dominated them through the middle — they couldn’t replicate that quality after the break.

Mistakes crept in, and they couldn’t get ball where they needed it, though they almost produced a barnstorming finish, despite obvious fatigue.

Aside from the Murray try, Josh Addo-Carr’s try was also regrettable as he was allowed a free shot at a cross field Ben Hunt kick.

It was a shame, because this Kiwis effort deserved more. A lot more.

Up against significant favourites — the Kangaroos were paying $1.20 at the Australian TAB — the New Zealand side hit new heights, finally playing to their potential.

The forwards were magnificent, especially in the first half, while Dylan Brown and Ronaldo Mulitalo shone on the left edge and Joseph Manu never stopped.

But, like so many times before, it wasn’t to be, by the narrowest of margins.

Maguire made some tweaks to the Kiwis side, with prop Moses Leota into the 17 and Isaiah Papali’i ahead of Kenny Bromwich.

The Kiwis took the lead in the 10th minute, with a smart Jahrome Hughes try. It came after Joseph Manu managed a brilliant catch and mid-air pass of a pinpoint Brown bomb, before Hughes leapt over.

The Kiwis were willing to chance their arm — and had the better of the first 15 minutes — but all that pressure was undone by Addo-Carr’s freakish try.

It was an amazing effort by the Bulldogs winger, as he scorched through to take Hunt’s 50 metre cross kick on the fly — but inexplicable by Jordan Rapana, who was disoriented by the kick and seemed to stop running.

The Canberra winger made some amends — forcing an error from Addo-Carr — before knocking over a 25th minute penalty.

The Kiwis were confident — with their offloads making a difference — but were then outflanked by a wonderful Kangaroos counter. They broke from their own territory, before some Jack Wighton magic allowed Valentine Holmes to finish in the corner.

But the match took another turn. Nelson Asofa-Solomona bulldozed two defenders to create momentum through the ruck, before a quick shift left put Ronaldo Mulitalo in the clear, with Brown, who had a superb first half, backing up to finish off four minutes before halftime.

The Kiwis were unfortunate not to extend their lead just after the break, after Moses Leota managed a brilliant round the corner pass to send Peta Hiku away, following a Hughes bomb. But the try was rubbed out by a debatable video referee decision, finding that Rapana was offside from the kick, which looked marginal.

Hiku again went close — stopped by a superb Latrell Mitchell tackle — but New Zealand needed to make the most of their momentum.

They didn’t, and Australia scored a fortuitous try, with Cameron Murray running through some turnstile defence near the line. The Kiwis were guilty of switching off from a tap, after Klein gave a generous penalty, with Brandon Smith adjudged to be lying in the ruck.

The game then swung back Australia’s way — with multiple New Zealand mistakes, though Liam Martin was lucky to get way with a shoulder charge on Asofa-Solomona.

The Kangaroos had upped the ante physically. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui put on a heavy — and probably illegal shot — on Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, while Mulitalo left the field, injured after trying to clean up a kick.

The Kiwis looked gone, but a Rapana break created a late chance, with Hiku just failing to ground the ball in the in goal, though Hughes might regret his decision to roll the dice on an early tackle grubber.

That was as close as the Kiwis came, with Australia closing out the game in the final five minutes.

Kangaroos 16 (Josh Addo-Carr, Valentine Holmes, Cameron Murray tries; Nathan Cleary 2 cons)

Kiwis 14 (Jahrome Hughes, Dylan Brown try; Jordan Rapana 2 cons, Rapana pen)

Halftime: 14-10