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Australia take big stride towards Four Nations final

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Four Nations: New Zealand 8-14 Australia

Australia took a huge stride towards reaching the final of the Four Nations after defeating current holders New Zealand in Coventry.

Blake Ferguson and Johnathan Thurston tries gave the world champions a 10-0 lead at the break before Solomone Kata crashed over for the Kiwis.

Two Thurston penalties put his team 12-4 up before the Kiwis’ Shaun Johnson brilliantly sent Jordan Rapana in.

Johnson went close to a try at the death but was held up over the line.

It was a dramatic finish to a game that Australia had dominated for long periods without ever being able to kill off a stubborn and tenacious Kiwi side.

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One foot in the final

The Kangaroos face England in London on 13 November in their final group game knowing that it would take something remarkable for them to miss out on the final at Anfield a week later.

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They have four points from their two games and would need to suffer a heavy defeat by England that looks incredibly unlikely on current form. The Kiwis would also have to thrash Scotland in their last group game for Mal Meninga’s team to miss out.

The Kiwis defeated England in their opening match and know that a big win over Scotland in their final round-robin game would in all likelihood see them through to the final.

Australia underline their dominance

New Zealand have scored some notable victories over their Antipodean rivals in recent years – winning finals against them to claim the 2008 World Cup and the 2010 and 2014 Four Nations.

But new coach David Kidwell has now seen his team lose three times to Meninga’s Kangaroos in 2016 after two earlier defeats in Australia before Saturday’s Four Nations reverse.

And it was a deserved victory for the green and gold, who were particularly dominant in the opening 40 minutes and arguably deserved more than the 10-0 lead they took into the break.

With Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis and Thurston restored to the side, they were ruthless in the way they created pressure and kept the Kiwis pinned in their own half.

And with half-back Cooper Cronk rested for the match, it is possible that we have yet to the see the best of the Kangaroos.

New Zealand: J Kahu, G Beale, S Kata, S Kenny-Dowall, J Rapana, T Leuluai, S Johnson, J Bromwich, I Luke, A Blair, K Proctor, T Harris, J Taumalolo.

Replacements: L Brown, M Taupau, M Ma’u, G Eastwood.

Australia: D Boyd, B Ferguson, G Inglis, J O’Neill, V Holmes, J Thurston, M Morgan, M Scott, C Smith, A Woods, B Cordner, M Gillett, T Merrin.

Replacements: D Klemmer, S Boyd, S Thaiday, J Maloney.

Referee: Ben Cummins.