Roos draw first blood against Kiwis as final nears

Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens was impressed with his side’s effort in the 34-20 win over New Zealand given the tough physical climate and atmosphere that his side was faced with.

With a fantastic crowd of 44,000 watching in Auckland, the Aussies were booed by supporters as the Australian national anthem played, in what will be construed as a form of mind games.

The haka as usual was performed, but this time, by all 24 of the Kiwi squad showing their passion for their culture and country. This was overshadowed however by fans throwing bottles when the Kangaroos were up by 24 points.

“I was very proud, particularly considering the crowd, the atmosphere and all 24 of their players going out there for the haka, they did everything they could to intimidate us, so it was pretty hard with some young guys out there,” Sheens said.

“I said in the box before the game that it would be a great win for us and I was real proud.”

Despite the rough atmosphere, Sheens denied that it gave his team any added impetus to win, but he was full of praise for his side’s performance as he is forced to make some tough decisions for next week’s final.

If it had stirred us up you would have seen us play more aggressively, but we didn’t, we played smart footy and I think we showed that with the way we put the ball in the corners and scored some good tries,” Sheens said.

“I was pleased with all of the new guys and it gives me some decisions to make next week.”

In the absence of incumbent five-eighth Darren Lockyer, stand-in skipper Cameron Smith said that he had never experienced an atmosphere quite as rowdy and as hostile as last night’s game.

“It was loud at the start during our national anthem with the crowd booing, that could have got to some blokes, but I thought we showed real maturity, particularly with the guys who made their debuts,” Smith said.

“Anything the crowd does we can’t control, the crowd are passionate about their side and their country and will do what they can to get them over the line.

“One (bottle) just came over my left shoulder but that sort of stuff is done to put you off, but I just had to compose myself and put it through the posts, which is what I did.”

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney was disappointed with his side’s performance and says that the team needs to improve their game by using their loss as added motivation for next week.

“It was very disappointing, we have high standards and I don’t think we reached them at all tonight,” Kearney said.

“I would hate to think the lads thought it would be easy because of the changes they made, but we produced our worst performance of the tournament at Eden Park.”

NZ captain Benji Marshall denied that his team were overwhelmed by the nature of the clash in front of their vocal home crowd.

“I can’t put my finger on what went wrong, if I knew, I would have done something about it, you can’t play the Aussies out of your own half for so long and expect to win,” Marshall said.

“We let ourselves down, we let the crowd down and we let the country down.”

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