Lockyer injured as Kangaroos storm home
by Chris Cox
Sunday October 24, 2004
Australia need to win just one of their matches against Great Britain to assure themselves of a place in the Tri-Nations final on November 27 after a comprehensive 32-12 win over New Zealand at Loftus Road in London.
The Kangaroos scored five tries to three after trailing 12-8 at half time, scoring four unanswered converted tries in the second half to dominate the Kiwis. Skipper Darren Lockyer was outstanding, scoring the match breaking try early in the second half to put Australia back in front and then handled twice as Willie Tonga scored to give Australia an 8-point buffer.
However, Lockyer left the field after Shaun Berrigan's try put Australia 14-points clear after suffering a recurrance of the rib injury that plagued him throughout 2004. The Broncos' five-eighth is in doubt for next weekend's clash with Great Britain in Manchester.
With Lockyer off the field the match ebbed towards a scrappy conclusion, however there was some joy for Broncos teammate Petero Civoniceva who scored his first Test try after reaching international honours in 2001. The interchange forward was in the right place to pick up a Craig Gower grubber and roll over the line to put the finishing touches on a powerhouse Australian fightback.
The first half was a very different story as the physical and enthusiastic Kiwis dominated. An early turnover thanks to a forced offload from Jason Ryles put the Kiwis on the attack in the opening minutes, and they took full advantage.
Sonny Bill Williams ran to the line and offloaded one handed to Nigel Vagana, who managed to offload in turn to Brent Webb to score the opening try. Webb's conversion sailed wide.
Moments later New Zealand were penalised for a second tackle on Matt Sing and Australia wasted no time. From the tap the ball travelled wide, Craig Fitzgibbon running a neat decoy that created space for Luke Rooney to score his third try in only his second international.
Fitzgibbon converted for a 6-4 lead and made it 8-4 with a penalty goal shortly after.
However, the Kiwis hit back when powerhouse winger Lesley Vainikolo charged down the left wing after a beautiful second man play put five-eighth Vinnie Anderson in space. Webb failed again to convert.
New Zealand finally hit the lead again in the dying stages of the first half when Logan Swann busted the line on the last tackle, Anderson in support to score. It was the third Test in succession that Anderson had crossed the line, showing his consistency in the black jumper.
Webb again failed to convert but the Kiwis took a 12-8 lead into the break.
It was a strong performance by Australia in the second half who got back to basics. Shane Webcke, Civoniceva, Nathan Hindmarsh and Willie Mason were outstanding up front, creating room for man of the match Lockyer and Gower to present numerous opportunities to their outside backs.
New Zealand would be disappointed with their mistake riddled second half performance, though they showed their physical enthusiasm could cause plenty of problems in the first half. Williams continues to shine at such a young age, while veteran Ruben Wiki and Vinnie Anderson were also outstanding. The Kiwis just lack the match breaking player that the Australians have an abundance of in Lockyer, Gower, Buderus, Wing, Tonga and Minichiello.
Australia travel to Manchester Stadium for their first clash with Great Britain next Saturday (Sunday morning Brisbane time). A win will assure themselves of a place in the November 27 final.