Kiwis bringing back the ANZAC spirit slowly but surely

Dragons tragic Stephen Gallagher joins us again, as he discusses a NZ’ers perspective on the traditional ANZAC clash, and what it means for the future.

Only two minutes in, it seemed that it was going to be another test match where Australia ran riot on their close counterparts, the Kiwis. It was a shaky error by Lance Hohaia from a huge Darren Lockyer bomb, that put Billy Slater in the box seat to get the crumbs and score. At my household, it was calls of “Oh not this again” and “What’s on the other channel?” after a horror start for the New Zealanders.

It’s changed quite considerably – the ledger between the two sides. Growing up, I was sitting in the lounge room seeing the Kiwis only play to smash the Aussies, and beat them in the physicality, but not the actual match. New Zealand would call on players from England to come over – jet-lagged and tired they wouldn’t add anything to the ANZAC test, and it would be a genuine waste of time. Back then though, the depth of the Kiwis was very slim and it seemed to be that we’d struggle to form a squad for the one off test match.

Now each time the ANZAC test rolls around, I feel more and more comfortable with the squad. Seems now, no one gets put on report the week before and suspended, and no one gets injured prior to the match. The depth now is remarkable. The halves are set for the next five years. Benji Marshall and Kieran Foran are a very good pairing, and one that work very well together. It’s come a long way from having Stacey Jones at halfback and someone else fill in at five-eighth. Despite not actually winning the match since 1998 which was played in New Zealand, the results are no longer lop-sided or cricket scores and that’s something to be proud of.

Naturally, the Kangaroos side gel better on a short week than the Kiwis. The ANZAC test shows that. It generally takes the Kiwis time to build and gel. The Four Nations title proves that too. In my eyes though, no matter the titles we’ve won in the past, Australia will always be the favourites. As they should be. I am not taking away the great wins in the 2008 World Cup, or last years Four Nations series, but the Kiwis are the underdogs and that’s the way it should be and that’s the way I like it.

The game played on Friday was a very tough match, with only two penalties blown by English official Richard Silverwood, with the game was played at fast pace, proving very tough on both sides. The game was evenly matched throughout the entire contest, but errors were the only thing that let the Kiwis down. Three errors turned in to tries for Billy Slater, who grabbed the loose ball after a Lance Hohaia fumble in the second minute, and raced 70 metres after Bronson Harrison dropped it cold in the 68th minute. When Jason Nightingale also knocked it on, it was debutante Jamal Idris who sealed the deal in the 71st with a barn-storming try in the corner. It’s errors like these that will see you punished each and every time by the classy Kangaroos.

I could go on to say that without these errors the Kiwis would have won the match 10-6, but that was not the case. Both sides were let down by handling at stages which was the only sour point for a fantastic match. The two Kiwis on debut Lewis Brown and Matthew Duffie looked very comfortable in a black jersey. Brown playing like a veteran, and now a fresh face was impressive to see and the nice finishing by Duffie would have been a nice touch for him on debut. Even better, it was a line break by Brown to set up Duffie in the corner.

Jharal Yow Yeh and Jamal Idris too looked very solid. A stellar season so for for the Brisbane Bronco Yow Yeh could see his test selection matched by finding himself a starting spot on the wing for the Queensland Origin side. Idris, who’s chance came as Greg Inglis aggravated his off-season hip injury saw him solidly play a very good role in centre for a player who was tipped to come on as an impact player in the forwards. Both scoring tries on debut, and a win for the green and gold would have been a night to remember for these two players.

Now, I wait patiently for October 16 at Ausgrid Stadium in Newcastle for the Kiwis to spoil the party because both sides leave to England for the Four Nations. Wales and England will be the two other sides as the boys from New Zealand look to hold on to their Four Nations title and look to step up better than how they performed in the Northern Hemisphere last time they were there missing out in the semi finals to a solid English side which went on to get thrashed in the final against Australia.

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