‘Just the bounce of the ball’: Michael Maguire emotional as New Zealand fall short against Australia

New Zealand have missed out on reaching their fifth men’s Rugby League World Cup final, losing 16-14 to Australia in a thrilling semi-final clash.

The Kiwis opened the scoring through halfback Jahrome Hughes before Kangaroos winger Josh Addo-Carr fired back just minutes later. 

Valentine Holmes and Dylan Brown then put themselves on the scoresheet, as New Zealand went into the sheds up 14-10. 

However, it was Cameron Murray’s fast-thinking second-half try that won the match for the reigning champions, despite New Zealand having numerous chances to re-take the lead.

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New Zealand coach Michael Maguire was teary-eyed in his post-match interview, as he reflected on the narrow defeat.

“There’s a fair bit of emotion at the moment,” Maguire said.

“Moments in games – they win you Test matches. And unfortunately, we just didn’t capitalise on a couple of them there where we actually had it.

“I’ve got so much belief in our players … unfortunately for us tonight it just wasn’t to be.”

Australia’s win was not without any controversy, however, with New Zealand centre Peta Hiku denied two tries. 

A contentious video referee ruling saw Jordan Rapana deemed offside from a Hughes kick.

Then, in a more straightforward decision, Hiku was found to be out of touch in what was almost a spectacular sideline try.

Maguire did not contest any of the calls post-match but did feel that the result could have gone his side’s way with some luck. 

“It’s done now. We can’t look back. The result’s the result”, he said.

“The game … it was there [to win]. 

“But one thing I do know that the boys have done is close the gap – the gap between where we’ve been and where we are as a group now.

“[The match] could have gone our way, but unfortunately, [it was] just the bounce of the ball with [Hiku] right in that corner there.

“So the gap between the teams, I believe, has closed immensely. We’ve just got to keep pushing forward now and close it even more.”

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Despite falling short, the former Wests Tigers coach was delighted with how his side has represented their country this tournament.

“I’m really proud of my players,” he added.

“It’s gutting. I’m just absolutely gutted for my players because of the amount of work they’ve been doing for a long period of time.

“They’ve been so devoted to [taking] the jersey to a better place. I believe they have done that.

“You know, we didn’t get the result that we would have liked, but they’re getting better.

“One thing about a lot of the boys is that a lot of them are actually the best players within their clubs.

“The more they get from that and the more big games like this they play, the experience comes and the bounce of that ball will go our way.”

Samoa will now take on host nation England in the second semi-final, with the victor to face Australia in the final at Old Trafford next week.

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