The Four Nations Final: Where The Decider Will Be Won And Lost
November 14, 2014
The Four Nations final may feature the two teams most pundits expected, but how they got there and all that happened in between certainly was surprising. While New Zealand perhaps holds a psychological advantage over the Kangaroos after beating Australia for the first time in 4 years the Aussies are still favourites to win the silverware.
New Zealand’s Unbeaten March to the Final
The Kiwis got their campaign underway with an upset win over the Green and Gold and suddenly had 1 foot in the final. But that comprehensive victory followed by a less than impressive display in their second game. After a bone shaking traditional pre game war dance with Samoa it was the Pacific Islanders who showed more passion early. The Toa led most of the match and a shock looked on the cards with 20 minutes remaining before New Zealand finally clicked into gear. The Kiwis bagged the final 2 tries of the match to steal victory and continue their winning run.
And the team from across the Tasman remained the only unbeaten side in the competition after yet another gripping game, this time against England. They played out a see-soaring battle with the Poms in Dunedin where goal kicking proved the difference as the home side held on 18-16. The Kiwis proving they can handle the nail-biters securing their second 2 point triumph in as many matches.
Kangaroos Hopping Again Ahead of the Decider
An under-strength and inexperienced Australian side recovered from their shocking start to the competition to also book a place in the decider. The Kangaroos’ clumsy performance against the Kiwis put the pressure on ahead of their showdown with England. A loss would see the Aussies miss the final and coach Tim Sheens surely lose his job. And it looked like the writing was on the wall with the hosts trailing at halftime. But the introduction of Ben Hunt on debut sparked the Australia into life. He scored just moments after taking the field before Greg Inglis looked to have ended England’s hopes of handing the Kangaroos back to back losses. In the game’s final play and with the visitors trailing by 4, their winger Ryan Hall chased down a grubber and appeared to have scored but after plenty of deliberation a no try was awarded and the Aussies dodged a bullet.
The Kangaroos finally found cohesion in their final Pool game against Samoa. They were ruthless without being incredible against their opponents in the first half to lead by 22 at the break. Perhaps with one eye on the final Australia eased off and Samoa took advantage, but 2 late tries to the home side made it a blowout.
Limited Changes for the Final
Australia has named an unchanged line up from the team that took care of Tonga, however they have extended their squad to 20 players with the additions of Robbie Farah, Aidan Guerra and Ryan Hoffman. They’ll finalise their 17 man team closer to Saturday’s showdown. New Zealand has had to shuffle it’s side after Hooker Thomas Leuluai was ruled out with a shoulder injury, he was replaced in the squad by Lewis Brown. Souths number 9 Issac Luke moves into the starting 13.
The Danger Men
Australia’s identified New Zealand halfback Shaun Johnson as the main danger. The touch footy prodigy has fancy footwork and electrifying speed to match. And it’s his unstructured attack that could bring the home side undone. He can provide flare and plenty of room for New Zealand’s outside backs to move if he isn’t closed down early. Winger Jason Nightingale’s been the Kiwis most prolific finisher this series, bagging 4 tries already. He’s Mr Consistent in defence and attack and you can almost ensure he’ll have another reliable game out wide.
Greg Inglis was suffering from a virus when the two teams met in October and only lasted one half, completely changing the odds. He’ll be a much different prospect in the rematch and New Zealand knows it. GI bagged a brace last weekend and the match winner against England, so if the game’s on the line look out for the classy Queenslander. If the fullback scores in the decider he’ll equal the late great Kangaroo centre Reg Gasnier on 27 tries.
Aussie Pack Needs a Bigger Impact
New Zealand’s pack overpowered the Aussies at Suncorp Stadium paving the way for the men in black’s victory. Since then Australia’s added size and enthusiasm with young Bulldogs prop David Klemmer making his debut against England before a strong display against Samoa off the bench. His impact in the middle of the ruck has freed up Sam Thaiday to do damage on the edges. Expect the Roos to have a little more firepower up front in the final.
While Australia is ALWAYS expected to win the Kiwis are confident they can do the double on their opponents. They’ll have the backing of a passionate crowd in Wellington as they aim to claim their first trophy since their last Four Nations triumph in 2010.