Australia held off a fast finishing New Zealand to earn a tightly fought 14-8 victory at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry in the second game of a double header in front of 21,009 spectators.
The Australians led 10-0 at half-time after a dominant first-half performance, scoring two tries in the first 14 minutes from Blake Ferguson and Johnathan Thurston, with Thurston converting the second try.
The Australians continued to dominate both possession and territory in the first half, but were unable to add to their score before the interval.
In the second half the Kiwis scored an early try when Solomone Kata spotted a gap in the Australian defence from dummy-half, but Shaun Johnson was unable to convert and the Australians took advantage of a series of penalties conceded by the Kiwis for Thurston to convert two penalties to put Australia 12-4 ahead after 54 minutes.
Although the Kiwis came more into the game, they struggled to score again, while the Australians extended their lead again with another Thurston penalty after 70 minutes to take them to a 14-4 lead.
But then with less than four minutes remaining, Johnson at last produced a piece of magic for the Kiwis, kicking over the Australian defence, collecting the ball and offloading to Shaun Kenny-Dowall, whose perfect pass to Jordan Rapana enabled the winner to touch down, but again Johnson couldn’t convert.
In a thrilling finish, a Johnson kick won a goal-line drop-out and he then got over the Australian try line, but was unable to touch down, and time finally ran out on them, although they will still be the favourites to beat Scotland in Workington on Friday and face the Australians again in the Four Nations final at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium.