Just the second player to play in 50 Tests for Australia behind Darren Lockyer, the Australian Kangaroos capped off the milestone for their captain, recording a 30-12 win at Canberra’s GIO Stadium.
Australia was simply too good in the end, as they managed to dismantle a New Zealand side that many believe have all the tools required to win the World Cup later this year.
It was also their 100th victory over the Kiwis but it has come at a potential cost with Josh Dugan suffering a facial fracture after a sickening collision with Kiwi prop Russell Packer.
Although the Kiwis started the stronger of the two sides, it was their lack of execution early that slowly gave the momentum to the Aussies who then capitalised.
Minor mistakes have always cost the Kiwis and soon after, the Australian attacked showed them how to execute as a pinpoint kick from half Johnathan Thurston found Josh Dugan out wide to score.
The Kiwis again had chances of their own as they continued to stamp home a territorial advantage but had two tries disallowed; one that saw fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck held up and another that was called back for a forward pass.
Two further tries ensued for the Kangaroos to Blake Ferguson – a 95m intercept try – and Will Chambers – making the most of a scattered defensive line.
A fourth try was soon added by the Roos as back-rower Tyson Frizell reacted quickest to a grubber from Thurston as the Kangaroos asserted their dominance leading into the break.
It looked like one-way traffic was headed the Kiwis way as the Australians scored again, this time through new addition Jake Trbojevic.
They would score two tries of their own, though, to finish the game. Simon Mannering scoring in his return game before Tuivasa-Sheck showed good speed to get over the line for a try of his own.
Whilst their preparation and attitude were good leading into the game, the execution obviously let the Kiwis down but coach David Kidwell opted to focus on the positives; particularly the last 30 minutes of the game.
“Looking at the final 30 minutes, there’s something to build on,” Kidwell said after the game.
“There was a good process that we worked on all week and we saw it there for the last 30 minutes. We definitely need to work on our starts and take our opportunities. At this level you’ve got to take them – Australia did – and we didn’t.
“I can’t fault the boys for their preparation this week. They set the bar really high and we had a good game plan but obviously, we couldn’t execute it at the start of the game. As I said, there are positives to build on and we’ll get better.”
Still adjusting to the new role, Kidwell realised that when it comes to picking players, you must pick those in form and not those on reputation.
“For me, that’s what I’ve learnt,” he continued.
“There are guys who are hungry to actually put their hand up and want to be involved in the World Cup who have got a great opportunity to possibly win another World Cup and leave a legacy.”
Battling a calf strain leading into the clash, Thurston seemed unaffected by it and his performance drew praise from Roos coach Mal Meninga.
“He got better as the game went on, to be honest with you,” Meninga said.
“As the game went on the more confident he got, he got his second wind and when [halfback] Cooper [Cronk] came off he took pretty good control of the footy team and what a champion he is.”
Kangaroos 30 (Josh Dugan, Blake Ferguson, Will Chambers, Tyson Frizell, Jake Trbojevic tries; Johnathan Thurston 5 goals) def. Kiwis 12 (Simon Mannering, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries; Jordan Kahu 2 goals) at GIO Stadium. Half-time: 24-0. Crowd: 18,535.