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Kangaroos Take Close VB Test

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Shaun Johnson backed up by Josh Hoffman looks for a break April 20 test match

The Kangaroos have beaten the Kiwis 20-12 in front of 35,339 people at Eden Park in the VB Test. There were a couple of injury hold-ups early in the match, with Shaun Johnson staying down after a heavy knock to the shoulder, and then David Shillington taking time to find his feet after a head clash with Sam McKendry. When the repairs were sorted it was the Kiwis who took the lead as Issac Luke weaved his way over from dummy half in the 12th minute. Benji Marshall converted.

The dancing feet of Johnathan Thurston got the Kangaroos back in the match not long after as he scored beside the posts. His goal kicking boots tied the scores.

The Queensland connection in the Aussie backline put the visitors ahead next as the ball went from Cooper Cronk to Thurston, who fed Billy Slater into an outside gap, before Greg Inglis took a final pass to score out wide on the left. Thurston converted from the touchline.

A critical call in the game came at the end of the first half when Slater put himself in the way of Alex Glenn's potentially try-scoring pursuit of a Johnson grubber kick. Slater got 10mins in the bin, but the Kiwis were unable to capitalise on their extra man and the Kangaroos even jumped ahead in this period to 14-6 though another Thurston penalty goal.

At the start of the second half - and this may just have been coincidence - the British boy-band One Direction made an appearance on the sideline and Cronk's passing radar went astray. Johnson snaffled an intercept and ran 90m to score. Marshall converted and the Kiwis were only two points behind at 14-12.

The match stayed an arm wrestle for much of the second half. But a try for the Aussie captain, Cameron Smith, with 10mins to go proved the decisive blow. Thurston again converted.

For the Kiwis, the performances of the two debutants in the backline were especially impressive. Johnson was dangerous on attack, his try brought the Kiwis right into the game, and he showed real courage to continue after his early shoulder trouble. Josh Hoffman, at fullback, also battled through injury after spraining his ankle on a kick return. He looked certain to leave the field in the first half, but played the match out. His defence at the back, such as a try-saving tackle on Justin Hodges, was superb and he was always a threat returning the ball.

Johnathan Thurston was named man of the match.

At Eden Park, Auckland:

Kiwis: 12 (Shaun Johnson, Issac Luke tries; Benji Marshall 2 conversions).
Kangaroos: 20 (Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston tries; Thurston 3 conversions and 1 penalty goal).

Halftime: 14-6 (Australia)
Referee: Richard Silverwood (England)
Crowd: 35,399

Kiwis: Josh Hoffman, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei, Benji Marshall (c), Shaun Johnson, Sam McKendry, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Frank Pritchard, Adam Blair, Jeremy Smith. Interchange: Nathan Fien, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jesse Bromwich, Alex Glenn, Gerard Beale (18th man)