The Four Nations have been blessed with one of the greatest internationals of the decade with Australia and New Zealand battling out a 20-all draw at Twickham Stoop in London. New Zealand did score four tries to Australia's three in a match that see-sawed even into the dying moments.
The game started like all major clashes have in the last few months, a battle between an entire forward pack and Fuifui Moimoi. An early lead of penalties gave New Zealand a shot at the line. They capatalised with Roosters prop Frank-Paul Nuuausala scoring his first try of the year after taking a beautiful pass.
After another two penalties Steve Ganson took the count to 4-0 after just seven minutes. That was just the start of it. In the next twelve minutes we would see Australia receive a staggering six penalties, however they were unable to crack the New Zealand defence. The defenders were extremely potent on their own line.
After an error from New Zealand captain Benji Marshall, a beautiful offload from Cameron Smith sent his Storm team-mate Greg Inglis away on a huge run, sending debutant Brett Morris over the line to level up the scores.
The main moment of the first half came minutes later when Issac Luke and Paul Gallen fought after an attempt from a swinging arm. The penalties kept coming, the count was at an amazing 9-6 at the break.
Lance Hohaia had a horror moment early into the second half, after breaking two tackles he attempted to take on Jonathon Thurston. Unfortunately for Hohaia, Thurston managed an easy strip for what was an easy try to put Australia in the lead for the first time.
A further penalty goal put Australia in a powerful position, leading 14-6 with half an hour left.
The scoreline didn't last long however, moments later Knights centre Junior Sa'u powered his way past a handful of defenders to put New Zealand right back into the match. All of a sudden it became a real arm wrestle, at the scoreline of 14-10.
With ten minutes remaining, Warriors utility Lance Hohaia dummied his way past Billy Slater close to the line to put his side in front. New Zealand were high on momentum, and moments later went wide to put big Frank Pritchard over to quickly go to a 20-14 lead, stunning the near capacity crowd.
However it wasn't over as the Australians went directly onto the attack after taking a short kick off. LeagueUnlimited.com Man of the Match Greg Inglis took a loose ball to run to the line, giving Australian vice-captain Cameron Smith the try to level it all up.
The draw seemed a fitting result with both sides giving it their absolute all in the end.
Australia will look to go full strength into an important clash with England, whilst New Zealand will be missing Bronson Harrison for their clash with France.
New Zealand 20 drew with Australia 20
Four Nations Round 1 - Sunday October 25th, 2009 05:50am Venue: Twickenham Stoop, London, England Referee: Steve Ganson (ENG)
Sideline Officials: Clint Sharrad (ENG) and Jose Pereira (FRA)
Video Referee: Ian Smith Crowd: 12,360 Halftime: New Zealand 6 Australia 6
New Zealand 20
Tries: Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Junior Sau, Lance Hohaia, Frank Pritchard
Goals: Bryson Goodwin (2/3), Isaac Luke (0/1)
Tries: Brett Morris, Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith
Goals: Johnathan Thurston (4/4)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary NEW ZEALAND: 1. Lance Hohaia 2. Sam Perrett 3. Steve Matai 4. Junior Sa'u 5. Bryson Goodwin 6. Benji Marshall (c) 7. Nathan Fien 15. Frank-Paul Nuuausala 14. Thomas Leuluai 10. Fuifui Moimoi 11. Bronson Harrison 12. Frank Pritchard 13. Adam Blair Interchange: 8. Jeff Lima 9 Issac Luke 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves AUSTRALIA: 1. Billy Slater 2. Brett Morris 3. Greg Inglis 4. Justin Hodges 5. Jarryd Hayne 6. Darren Lockyer 7. Johnathan Thurston 8. Ben Hannant 9. Cameron Smith 10. Petero Civoniceva 11. Trent Waterhouse 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Anthony Watmough Interchange: 14. Brett White 15. Sam Thaiday 16. Paul Gallen 17. Kurt Gidley
Many questions are to be answered with this game. How far have both of these sides come in the last twelve months since the World Cup? No doubt these two sides are the heavy favourites to take out the Four Nations, but who will gain an early lead on the competition tonight?
This will be a difficult eighty minutes to predict. In the last week there have been guesses this Test could see Australia go back to their old methods and wipe out the competition, but never ever underestimate the power of the Kiwis. 2005 and 2008 can prove that.
We'll be underway in a bit, stay tuned.
Late Changes: The Australian side will be at 1-17 today. The New Zealanders have made some changes within their 1-17 with Nuuausala starting at prop (moving Lima to the bench) and Leuluai starting at hooker (moving Luke to the bench).
The anthems have been sung, the haka is being prepared. They're standing on the forty metre lines readying to declare war. Issac Luke will lead the haka tonight.
So this match about to get underway, the referee Ganson about to start this match.
We're underway, and it's over the dead ball line!! Already a line drop out!
2 min: Not a try, but the Australians have got everything going so far after their first set of six.
2 min: A mistake from Moimoi, so Australia having another shot starting within the twenty.
3 min: Hoffman spills it now, so New Zealand are off the hook. Scrum from their fifteen.
4 min: PENALTY NEW ZEALAND Penalty for interference, that will do the world of good and we will see them coming close to the half-way.
5 min: PENALTY NEW ZEALAND Thurston penalised for holding Moimoi down, New Zealand 25 metres out. Here they come.
5 min: TRY New Zealand Frank-Paul Nuuausala takes a stunning pass and scores his first try of the year under the posts. So all of a sudden New Zealand have capitalised in their first opportunity, that's all you need to do. Conversion attempt by Bryson Goodwin successful. New Zealand 6-0
7 min: PENALTY NEW ZEALAND Maybe another coming for dissent after this flop.
7 min: PENALTY NEW ZEALAND There's the penalty for dissent following a bit of a juggle from the captain Marshall in the in-goal.
8 min: Hohaia tried going wide to Perrett, a bit of a shocker of a pass.
10 min: A kick went into an Australian, no charge down and Hohaia forced to kick within his own twenty. On the return Hayne got through a few defenders, lets see what form the "Hayne Train" shows tonight...this morning...
11 min: PENALTY AUSTRALIA Australia finally get their first penalty, this time it's an interference one. Five penalties in eleven minutes, Ganson maybe getting a bit "whistle happy". The Australian side close to the line.
12 min: PENALTY AUSTRALIA A bit of a push earns another penalty, on the last tackle with Australia metres out from the line. Here they come.
13 min: Slater tried to pass wide to tryscoring machine Morris, but four Kiwis had too much for him, putting him over the sideline. Replays might have shown different though.
14 min: The New Zealanders making some good metres, an error at the end of it, but some good play. Leuluai looking hurt, so Luke coming on.
15 min: PENALTY AUSTRALIA Pritchard not square at marker. Australia with a powerful shot.
16 min: PENALTY AUSTRALIA Flopped from Blair, the penalty count is even from memory.
17 min: PENALTY AUSTRALIA Another one! A grapple tackle. Gosh.
17 min: And after all that Hannant knocks on.
18 min: Now the New Zealanders knock on through Pritchard. White is coming off the bench to replace Civinoceva. Thaiday will come of the bench to replace Hannant. Australia going wide.
19 min: PENALTY AUSTRALIA He finally calls time off. Ganson is telling Marshall that's enough.
20 min: The New Zealanders putting a kick dead, might not have needed to. Line drop out. Waerea-Hargreaves making some impression.
20 min: PENALTY NEW ZEALAND For obstruction, Thaiday getting in the way.
22 min: Thurston taking a chip, they're on the move. Now a pass to Morris but he slips (or attempts to ground) five metres out and loses it. Nuuausala is coming off, Lima is coming on.
26 min: Both sides still making decent metres. Still 6-0 to the New Zealanders however.
26 min: The ball touched by Australia, so another set of six coming twenty metres out from the line. Are there points coming?
27 min: A knock on from Thurston attempting an intercept. Just putting the pressure on.
28 min: Slater destroys Marshall, forcing an error.
29 min: VIDEO REFEREE Possible Australia try Checking the grounding, looks fine. A great run from Smith who passed to Inglis. Inglis continued the metres and sent it to Brett Morris who seems to have redeemed himself.
29 min: TRY Australia A great try for the Australians finally gets the green light and they're on the board. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. 6 all
31 min: PENALTY AUSTRALIA Another official warning, the "final" one apparently.
33 min: The grubber kick hit the post, Soliola very quickly grabbing it.
33 min: PENALTY NEW ZEALAND Called that Cam Smith stripped the ball off Bryson Goodwin. By the "fingertips"...
35 min: Luke attempted an offload, lost it, and wow out of nowhere there are two seperate fighting groups. Incredible how quickly that came out. Looks like it was thanks to a swinging arm by Gallen. That's what happens when you take your eyes off the screen for five seconds.
36 min: PENALTY AUSTRALIA ...they're calling Sam Thaiday and Paul Gallen out. Also calling Issac Luke out. The warnings are out. They'll still get the penalty, the swinging arm missed (intent certainly there). Ganson confusing himself for a few moments there too.
37 min: PENALTY AUSTRALIA Now a swinging arm from Marshall hitting Hodges. Fifteen penalties now. Incredible.
38 min: A turnover after an ordinary set of six from Australia. All of a sudden Goodwin is away, however it was from a forward pass. Another chance for Australia.
39 min: A great flick from Inglis to Morris...but Morris goes down. Possibly high. Morris is ok. Australia resuming with five more tackles close to the line.
39 min: A pass from Smith goes forward, might have hit Civinoceva anyway. So that should be mostly it for the first half.
40 min: Push and shove in the scrum, but the Australian side will only get one run until half-time. So that'll do.
HALFTIME - NEW ZEALAND KIWIS 6, AUSTRALIAN KANGAROOS 6 Passion, power and penalties. That's the best way to describe the first half. Two sides really going at it. The game could explode in the second half, this one is a bit too unpredictable. Either way it's going to be a good show.
Well we had a nice break there. Coffee would be helping many Australian and New Zealand fans at this time of morning.
Second half underway.
43 min: The second half beginning cleanly so far. Australia to take a scrum metres from their own line.
44 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Possible Australia try Hohaia had the ball near his own line, Thurston stripped it. Clean as you can get. Could've walked the five metres to the line.
44 min: TRY Australia Is that going to hurt the Kiwis badly? Only time will tell. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. Australia 12-6
47 min: PENALTY NEW ZEALAND A holding down penalty. 12,360 is the official crowd, a record for this stadium in Rugby League. Back to the game, New Zealand attacking well near the line.
48 min: Touched by Australia, another six.
49 min: A knock on by New Zealand ends the momentum.
50 min: PENALTY AUSTRALIA A high kick, it was either a knock on or offside either way.
Looks like Thurston will be taking the lead further, lining up his shot.
51 min: PENALTY GOAL Australia He was never going to make an error there. Australia 14-6
52 min: The grubber from Inglis a bit too strong, going dead. Australia with all of the momentum right now.
53 min: New Zealand finally get something, Perrett making a good run, kicking to keep it alive. Thurston puts it dead, so Perrett earns New Zealand a line drop out.
54 min: PENALTY NEW ZEALAND So they're keeping it alive...close to the line!!
54 min: TRY New Zealand The crowd are going mental here! Junior Sa'u scores following a great passage. A powerhouse effort to take the ball over the line following pressure by four defenders. Conversion attempt by Isaac Luke unsuccessful. It hit the post! Australia 14-10
Watmough coming on for Waterhouse. White coming on for Civinoceva. Thaiday coming on for Hannant. Luke coming on for Leuluai.
57 min: PENALTY AUSTRALIA The game has been expanding well in the last few minutes.
Twenty to go. The winner is still anybody's guess.
62 min: Watmough spilling it close to the line.
63 min: Australia take a loose ball, a chance to maybe seal it up early.
65 min: Well defended by Sa'u.
Gidley coming on now.
66 min: This excellent New Zealand goal line defence does it again. Tremendous work.
67 min: Well here comes another shot for Australia. Blair coming on for Luke.
68 min: PENALTY NEW ZEALAND A second effort from Gidley gives the New Zealand side a relieving penalty.
69 min: An interesting moment. Perrett took a bomb, Leuluai took it (with the look of a spill) and kicked. Inglis was close and spilt it, it's called New Zealand scrum...and...
70 min: TRY New Zealand Hohaia, who is having not the best of nights has scored an extremely important try to put New Zealand in front. Conversion attempt by Bryson Goodwin successful. New Zealand 16-14
73 min: PENALTY NEW ZEALAND Thaiday taking a run after being tackled. 21 penalties tonight. Pritchard coming on for Soliola.
74 min: Matai oh so close...here come New Zealand!
74 min: Grubber and the Hayne Train is monstered! Line drop out!
75 min: TRY New Zealand The World Cup winners might have done it! Pritchard taking a great ball wide to score in the corner! An important kick is coming up here. Conversion attempt by Bryson Goodwin unsuccessful. New Zealand 20-14
Short kick off...Thurston has it!
2nd tackle...10 metres out...
78 min: PENALTY AUSTRALIA Taking the tap...
78 min: TRY Australia It isn't over yet! A loose ball was taken and Inglis ran to the line, waiting for support, and vice captain Cameron Smith has burrowed over! This could be split through the middle, an even more important kick coming up here. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. 20 all
New Zealand taking the full length kick off. 24 seconds left.
Lockyer fumbles, but it's ok. 5 seconds left.
That'll do folks!
FULL TIME - NEW ZEALAND KIWIS AND AUSTRALIAN KANGAROOS DRAW 20-ALL If there ever was a reason to scrap Golden Point it would be this. Neither side deserved to leave this arena without competition points in one of the best internationals of the modern era.
Thanks for joining me, remember to join the LeagueUnlimited.com team for the rest of the Four Nations tournament.