Australia vs. New Zealand result, highlights as Kangaroos secure Rugby League World Cup final berth against brave Kiwis

Australia kept themselves on course for a third successive crown as they edged New Zealand in a thrilling 16-14 victory in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup semi-finals at Elland Road in Leeds.

The Kangaroos were forced to come from behind on several occasions against the Kiwis at the home of Leeds United, in what was their toughest fixture of the tournament so far by a considerable margin.

But ultimately Cameron Murray’s smash-and-grab try in the 54th minute proved enough for Mal Meninga’s side to book their spot at Old Trafford next weekend, as they seek to defend the title they won in 2013 and again in 2017.

For Michael Maguire’s Kiwis, this was far and away their most assured performance at RLWC2021, despite a series of group-stage blowout victories – but it will be a bitter pill to swallow  for the world’s number-one-ranked side as they miss out on the showpiece finale for a second successive tournament.

They made the best possible start to the evening in West Yorkshire, breaking the deadlock through Jarome Hughes after livewire Joey Martin picked off a pinpoint high bomb less than a dozen minutes in to the match to set him down.

An immediate response from Josh Addo-Carr – taking his try haul to a dozen for the tournament – set up a rip-roaring battle throughout the rest of the night, with Jordan Rapana’s penalty edging New Zealand back in front before Valentine Holmes struck in the corner.

A Nathan Brown finish just before the break sent the Kiwis in on top against the pre-match odds, to set up a thrilling second half – and Murray was lucky to not see a yellow card after running in needlessly following the tackle.

He was not the only player to dodge disciplinary action on the biggest stage, and it was his try moments later that broke New Zealand’s resolve. Australia hung on with pure power to see themselves through – and it will be England or Samoa who they face in Manchester a week on Saturday.

Pack power does the trick

Much had been made of New Zealand’s impressive size pre-match and how any hope of victory would have to come from the creative axis behind them.

Credit where it is due, Hughes, Brown and Manu put together their best combined performance of the tournament – but as the game ware on, Australia’s pack proved to have the edge when it came to stamina, led by the dynamic Liam Martin.

Kiwis kept at bay by marginal calls

Referee Ashley Klein, one of the NRL’s best, ensured a contest that was fierce and free-flowing, playing to Origin-esque rules where bust-ups are met with a simple tap on the nose rather than a card.

But while a few calls favoured both sides on and off throughout the night, two video referee calls – one correct, one dubious, from Chris Kendall – saw New Zealand have two tries chalked off in the second half, in what could have been a different story.

The Sporting News is following the match live, providing score updates and commentary below.

Australia vs. New Zealand final score

  1H 2H Final
Australia 10 6 16
New Zealand 14 0 14

Tries: Addo-Carr, Holmes, Murray; Hughes, Brown

Conversions: Cleary (2); Rapana (2)

Penalties: Rapana

Australia vs. New Zealand full updates, highlights from Rugby League World Cup

FT: But just who will it be in the end? We’ll find out soon enough. It’s England versus Samoa tomorrow, live from London – and we’ll be there. Until then, thank you for joining us – and we’ll see you next time!

FT: If New Zealand have shown anything tonight, it is that Australia are not invulnerable. They were inches away at points from taking this match – and that will give heart to both England and Samoa of breaking the Kangaroos’ hold on this trophy, whoever gets there to meet them.

FT: Wow. Just, wow! It’s taken its time, perhaps, but RLWC2021 has finally delivered the bare-knuckle goods fans have been after. The last three matches – New Zealand’s win over Fiji, Samoa edging Tonga, and here tonight – have all been clashes of the utmost theatre and quality. Just wonderful stuff.

FT: Australia 16-14 New Zealand! That’s it! The Kiwis stick the high bomb up in the final seconds and Latrell Mitchell takes it with effortless cool! It’s going to be the final curtain – the whistle goes and the Kangaroos are into the 2021 Rugby League World Cup Final!

76 mins: Cleary comes up just short as he powers for the line! But Australia will turn over possession on the New Zealand line and that is no poor position to get back into the defensive line.

73 mins: Oh, the last chance saloon might have just shut up shop for New Zealand! Rapana makes an absolute blockbuster run on the right, and Nicoll-Klokstad follows it up. But Hughes kicks early with great field position, and the ball just cuts dead in-goal before it can be grounded.

69 mins: Time is firmly running out for the Kiwis now. You don’t want to say it, but they’ve had a few calls go against them in this second half with some very borderline hits. But Australia’s sheer mass have just hammered them into the ground across this half.

65 mins: Play comes to a halt with a quarter-hour on the clock after Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is clocked with an absolute ripper of a challenge from Tino Fa’asuamaleaui. There’s an argument to made the latter’s hit was illegal, but no penalty is forthcoming on the restart.

59 mins: Liam Martin lands an absolute cruncher on Penrith club-mate James Fisher-Harris and the latter spills possession as a result. We’ve mooted that Australia have never had to get out of first gear across this tournament – now, they are truly revving up. It’s frightening stuff.

54 mins: TRY: Australia 16-14 New Zealand! Route one and the Kangaroos hit the front again! The Kiwis are penalised on the last for an offside marker, and Murray promptly just batters his way through the middle. That’s going to stoke controversy – he maybe should be in the bin! Cleary converts.

51 mins: We are far away from next-score-wins territory, of course – but there’s a growing sense that the next try will be a decisive blow in this game, a momentum-shifter if you will. But which way will the four-pointer fall?

47 mins: Handbags at dawn! Cleary knocks on with a loose carry, and suddenly both sides are thrashing at each other. Cameron Murray looks to be the instigator in that brawl – but nobody heads to the bin, and New Zealand get the penalty.

45 mins: Have New Zealand bagged a third try five minutes in? No – but it is an almighty let-off for Australia. An offside call from the video referee saves the Kangaroos blushes after they failed to deal with a high bomb.

41 mins: Here we go then, for the second half. Can New Zealand hold on against an Australia side now stung by that first half? Or will the Kangaroos roar back to head into yet another RLWC final?

HT: You’ve got to go all the way back to the very first Rugby League World Cup in 1954 to find the last time Australia didn’t make the final. They have been that relentlessly dominant in this competition, no matter its form, over the years. Could they truly miss out here?

HT: Australia 10-14 New Zealand! What a blockbuster first half we have been treated to in Leeds – and it is the Kiwis who have their noses in front against the Kangaroos! After a tournament of clunky performances with a Hail Mary rescue in the quarter-finals, New Zealand are finally firing – but can they see this one out?

37 mins: TRY: Australia 10-14 New Zealand! That’s just what the doctor ordered for Michael Maguire! Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s carry sets them on their way, but the work comes from a superb Ronaldo Mulitalo run down the wing. He finds Brown on the inside for a simple finish around the last man. Rapana converts.

35 mins: Fans are getting their money’s worth in Leeds tonight. Australia have rallied substantially since conceding early on, and New Zealand are yet to seriously test their line again. The Kiwis will be disappointed to have not made more of their grunt.

30 mins: TRY: Australia 10-8 New Zealand! The Kangaroos hit the front for the first time! Manu thinks he has stopped Jack Wighton on the line, but slips off the tackle, and he somehow flicks the ball off the ground to the unmarked Valentine Holmes to finish. Cleary pushes the conversion shy.

26 mins: PENALTY: Australia 6-8 New Zealand! An accidental offside from a botched Kangaroos collection gives the Kiwis a chance to go for goal, and Rapana duly converts. His side nudge ahead again.

21 mins: This is the kind of response Australia have not been called upon to serve all tournament. Even when cruising in the group stages, New Zealand made life tough for themselves, but the Kangaroos seldom did. Now? This is an arm-wrestle, and the green and gold are finding further gears.

16 mins: TRY: Australia 6-6 New Zealand! What a riposte from the Kangaroos – and what a take from Josh Addo-Carr! The green and gold strike back with a crossfield bomb that the winger picks off at pace, unmarked after Rapana and Manu entirely misread the final play. That’s his 12th try of the tournamnent! Nathan Cleary converts.

13 mins: That’s silly play from the restart, as Reagan Campbell-Gillard steamrollers Brandon Smith off the ball. Australia land a monster legal hit a moment later and almost come up with a shock score, but the whistle has already gone for the penalty against them.

11 mins: TRY: Australia 0-6 New Zealand! First blood to the Kiwis! From a sturdy end-of-set position, they push hard for a Dylan Brown high bomb next to the posts. Joey Manu picks it out of the air, and slips it straight back for the unmarked Jarome Hughes to flop over the line with! Jordan Rapana converts.

8 mins: Ben Hunt has got that one wrong! Under Kiwi pressure, Australia plump for a 40-20 and they put it out on the full via the St. George Illawarra man. That’s a keen indicator that the heat might already be getting to them.

5 mins: New Zealand face the first real test of the night after Cameron Munster strips Peta Hiku cleanly. Australia pound on the door, but don’t quite find the right play to close out and the Kiwis survive.

KO: James Tedesco swings the boot, the ball flies off the tee and we are underway in this first 2021 Rugby League World Cup semi-final!

5 mins to KO: Absolutely ferocious stuff! Is that the final time we see the Haka in this tournament? We’ll likely know in less than two hours.

10 mins to KO: Impeccably observed, and now the national anthems, which will be followed by the Haka.

15 mins to KO: Today, of course, is Armistice Day, and there will be additional formalities before today’s encounter at Elland Road. Both Meninga and Maguire head out to The Last Post, to lay wreaths on the turf in Leeds

30 mins to KO: But does that count the Kiwis out entirely? Not in the slightest. They arguably back the biggest pack in the tournament, and are likely to give the Kangaroos their first serious workout among the forwards. The question is whether their creative spine can deliver behind that weight.

45 mins to KO: If you’ve seen the bookies, you’ll know it’s going one way and one way only – and that’s to the green and gold. Australia are odds-on, thanks to a ruthless campaign to date, including a last-eight thrashing of Lebanon. New Zealand meanwhile needed to mount a comeback to see off Fiji in the quarter-finals.

60 mins to KO: Tonight, it is the reigning champions versus the world’s number-one-ranked side, Mal Meninga’s Kangaroos against Michael Maguire’s Kiwis. It’s one of the sport’s great rivalries – and it’s poised to be a classic tonight.

75 mins to KO: And then there were four. After a month of pulsating action, we’ve reached the business end of the campaign, with the best quartet left. But who can go all the way and make it Old Trafford glory?

90 mins to KO: Hello and welcome to live coverage of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup semi-finals, as Australia face off with New Zealand at Elland Road in Leeds!

Australia vs. New Zealand lineups

How to watch Australia vs. New Zealand: TV channel, live stream

  UK Australia New Zealand
TV channel BBC Two Fox League Sky Sport NZ
Streaming BBC iPlayer Foxtel, Kayo Sports Spark Sport

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *