x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Kiwis stun hosts to lift World Cup

For the second time in three years, New Zealand turn the form book upside down to pull off a stunning victory against Australia.

Adam Blair, left, is congratulated by teammates after scoring the sixth try to seal victory for New Zealand.
Adam Blair, left, is congratulated by teammates after scoring the sixth try to seal victory for New Zealand.

BRISBANE // For the second time in three years, New Zealand turned the form book upside down to pull off a stunning victory against Australia. The Kiwis, rated 7-1 outsiders by bookmakers before kick-off, came from 10-0 down to play the Kangaroos off the park and lift the World Cup for the first time in the 54-year history of the tournament. British fans among the 50,559 crowd at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium cheered the underdogs to a sensational victory which ended 36 years of domination by Australia. The fullback Lance Hohaia scored two tries, including a controversial penalty touchdown awarded by the English video referee Steve Ganson, as the Kiwis ended an eight-match losing run at the hands of the arch enemy stretching back to 2005. The outcome was especially sweet for the Kiwis' assistant coach Wayne Bennett, who was sacked as the Australia coach in the wake of that shock defeat at Elland Road three years earlier. The match looked to be going according to the script when the international player of the year Billy Slater created two tries in seven minutes for the skipper Darren Lockyer and the winger David Williams. But Slater turned from hero to villain in the second half by gifting a try to the New Zealand stand-off Benji Marshall while Williams was also punished for a defensive blunder as the Australians wilted in the face of a second-half onslaught. The Kiwis hit back in the first half through Jeremy Smith and Jerome Ropati and Issac Luke's second goal edged them in front before the man-of-the-match Lockyer went over for his second try six minutes before the break. But, with Fein and Hohaia pulling the strings, New Zealand dominated the second half with the prop Adam Blair clinching victory by grabbing a sixth try five minutes from the end. "It was a wonderful effort tonight, we put them in a place they're not used to," the New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney told Sky Sports 2. "It was just a matter of keeping them in an arm wrestle and the first 15 minutes of the second half were very important. I'm just overwhelmed." "From where I've come from, with all my injuries, to come here and pull it off, I'm just stoked," Marshall added. The captain Nathan Cayless insisted his men had always believed they could win the title from the Kangaroos for the first time in 36 years, despite their 30-6 loss in the group stage. "I just want to thank the boys who've been outstanding. They took their opportunity and it's just unbelievable," he said. "We kept talking to ourselves and working hard. We knew we could play a lot better than in the first game and we really deserved this, we worked hard for it." The Australia captain Lockyer was gracious in defeat. "Congratulations to New Zealand on a great game tonight. It wasn't to be," he said. *PA Sport