GETTY: RENEE MCKAY - Source http://mobile.abc.net.au/
Australia edged to a 16th straight victory after running down a gallant New Zealand side to secure a 30-18 win at the Sydney Football Stadium on Friday evening.
Rated as no-hopers before the game, the Kiwis more than held their own and led 18-12 at half-time before being overhauled in the second half by a ruthless Kangaroos side who only iced the victory with a Cooper Cronk try seven minutes from time.
The win extended the hosts' unbeaten record in this fixture to 16 years in front of a respectable crowd of 25,429, and equalled the run of successive victories set by the 1979-83 Invincibles side.
But the Kiwis can take great credit from a display that was full of character and commitment from a side containing five debutants and bereft of so many star players due to injury.
Only five who played in the humiliating 34-2 World Cup final defeat last November were included by Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney.
"There was no panic," said Australia's man of the match Johnathan Thurston, who converted all five of his shots at goal.
"We knew that if we got our share of possession we would be OK.
"We had to come out in the second half and do a job and we did."
Despite their relative inexperience, it did not take long for the tourists to take the lead when Jesse Bromwich crashed over from close range following a smart play from the excellent Shaun Johnson to keep the ball alive and earn six more tackles.
But the signs looked ominous when Greg Bird hit back almost immediately as the Kangaroos took advantage of an injury to Sam Moa to scythe through a depleted Kiwis defence.
St George Illawarra winger Brett Morris then scored in the right corner to finish off a sweeping move after debutant full-back Peter Hiku had knocked on.
But the young Kiwis side refused to collapse with Dean Whare hauling Greg Inglis over the sideline with a brilliant tackle when he looked to score, before Tohu Harris and the impressive Moa darted over before the interval.
The expected barrage of pressure from the Kangaroos did not reap instant rewards but Morris crossed for his second try 12 minutes after the restart with Thurston adding the extras to level the scores.
But the Kiwis would not go away and the Kangaroos were forced back in their own half for a sustained period before Johnson botched an opportunity to give his side great field position when he failed to find touch from a penalty.
That let-off re-awoke coach Tim Sheens's side with Inglis crossing on the hour mark following a third successive set of six.
Cronk then added some gloss to the result late with Thurston completing a flawless night with the boot.
Australia: 30 (B. Morris 2, G. Bird, G. Inglis, C. Cronk tries; J. Thurston 5 cons)
New Zealand: 18 (J. Bromwich, T. Harris, S. Moa tries; S. Johnson 3 cons)