Managed to get down to the game, was a nice atmosphere that petered out a bit as the points started flowing, but that might have been me sitting in a pro-Kiwi section. Here’s my thoughts for those with the time to read. Haven’t seen a replay yet so this is based purely on my observations live.
Frizell and Thaiday kickstarted us. Cordner struggled early on, and while Thaiday wasn’t exactly rolling through the middle, he always had that extra bit of energy to him that seemed to lift those around him. Frizell has that jumper as long as he wants it, hit hard and ran harder, just can’t decide whether his impact will be sacrificed if he starts.
Gillett was a beast. Started quiet but really grew another leg while the Aussies struggled through the middle of the game, was a shame when he was taken off but Cordner played well on return.
Merrin and Boyd deserve to stay. I was critical of the Boyd selection but he offers something that every other Aussie prop considered rep quality bar maybe Fifita doesn’t, though he runs a lot straighter than Andrew. Merrin should be a perennial blue and his second phase play was dangerous all night - contrast him to Taupau who had more impact but no support on his offload.
Breezer Bros time is up. Ferguson tried hard, but for two blokes who were supposedly best friends they have no chemistry whatsoever. Holmes was great, and though it’ll only add to the Maroon-washing calls, Slater and Chambers will make this side infinitely better - though I would split up the Inglis-Boyd love in to get Holmes more quality ball.
Moylan for Morgan. It was an interesting substitute in the first place, the game hadn’t really opened up and we were rolling pretty well, but Michael Morgan struggled a bit trying to find his niche in the team. He plays well off Thurston as a running five eighth in club but I think he’s just a bit too limited here. Moylan, while not as defensively capable, is much more creative and skilled, and would provide a definite point of difference off the bench. That being said, Mal picked a squad to go forward and Morgan does that better than Moylan. I think we need the utility on the bench, if only to balance the minutes for the forwards, and Moylan is possibly the most diverse player in the comp.
Scott’s still got it. Outpointed Bromwich easily, he made the ad line and some every carry and while not spectacular, he’s the sort of no-frills prop that every team needs.
The Kiwis were unorganised. Absolutely no fifth tackle option (the best kick of the night was a sort of floating torpedo from Luke that Boyd wanted no piece of, unfortunately it bounced dead) was a bad start, and they just seemed to have no structure in attack outside of throw it to Johnson and let him decide to go short to Proctor or wide to Kata. Lewis Brown was out of his depth, and while Leuluai was strong defensively, he didn’t bring much else to the table. You could put it down to either adjusting to a new coach or the coach just not being good enough. When they needed a spark, Taumalolo and Taupau were sat on the bench.
Kahu isn’t a rep fullback. I love Jordan Kahu, I think he goes great at the Broncos but he missed a beat tonight. He has a solid running game and while the rest of the back 5 came in often looking for work (bar maybe Rapana), I barely sighted Kahu. If nothing else he should’ve sat in Taupau’s pocket all night. The return of Tuivasa-Sheck should push him to wing and simplify his role a bit.
Big pack flops. Bromwich and Waerea-Hargreaves were non-existent and Taumalolo struggled. Johnson was a shadow of his potential without a controlling half next to him. They’re notoriously slow burners though so I wouldn’t bet against them winning the Four Nations.
Overall it played like a post-season one-off, but it was a great advertisement for the game out west, and while I think we’re still a few years off a NRL team it’s only going from strength to strength. The Aussies looked revitalized by some of the new faces and it gives me confidence that we can roll through the Four Nations and play like everyone knows we can. It’s only up for New Zealand, the less said the better.
Thanks for the summary VT. JWH is an enigma is he not? So dominant at club level (and against us) but at the international level he is underwhelming.
I think the Kiwis will be concerned at how the Kangaroo pack dominated them. It was their pack that was supposed to provide the winning edge. Without a dominant pack the Kiwis lack the polish in the backs to worry the Kangaroos.
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