The New Zealand Kiwis have taken out the inaugural Pacific Cup final after keeping the Kangaroos scoreless 30-0 to orchestrate an international upset in Hamilton on Saturday.
A 12-0 scoreline had the New Zealand faithful daring to dream at halftime and the fairytale final continued as the Kiwis ran in another 18 unanswered points to hand the Kangaroos their heaviest ever defeat.
Seven days after going down to their Tasman rivals 36-18 in Melbourne, Michael Maguire's side were all class with halves Jahrome Hughes and Dylan Brown steering the ship and wingers Ronaldo Mulitalo and Jamayne Isaako dazzling on the edges.
Held scoreless for the first time since their 2005 Tri-Nations final defeat to New Zealand, the Kangaroos costs themselves any chance to break down the Kiwis' early momentum with 50 missed tackles and 11 errors cruelling any chances of a comeback at FMG Stadium Waikato.
After several Kangaroos errors gifted his side early possession, winger Mulitalo started and finished it for the Kiwis opening try, making a long-range break before finishing a left side sweep later in the set. Isaako's conversion made it 6-0 after 16 minutes.
Jamayne Isaako Try
The Kangaroos looked to strike back in the 25th minute when Daly Cherry-Evans looped a long ball to the right but Mulitalo produced an incredible shot to deny Valentine Holmes an opportunity to cross the line.
The Kiwis continued with their early momentum and were rewarded in the 35th minute, with their star-studded spine linking up to set up an airborne Isaako on the right and extend their lead 12-0 at the break.
Some early mistakes in the second half heaped more pressure on the Kangaroos and the Kiwi wingers pounced again with a Hughes cut out pass opening the door for Isaako to bag a double after another aerial finish in the corner.
New Zealand were on their way to a Pacific Championship trophy with Brown's quick hands putting Timoko in space to score his first international try.
Matthew Timoko Try
With eight minutes remaining New Zealand were able to put the game away with Griffin Neame tearing through the Kangaroos line to score under the posts and put the finishing touches on their Pacific Cup victory.
Match: Kangaroos v Kiwis
Venue: FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
- Kangaroos forward Cameron Murray was ruled out of the match on game day with Rueben Cotter starting in the backrow and Nicho Hynes joining the bench.
- In a dominant first half showing the Kiwis enjoyed 59 per cent of possession to keep the Kangaroos scoreless at half time for the first time since 2005.
- Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad had 277 running metres and six tackle breaks to go in a player of the match performance.
- Lock Isaah Yeo made 44 tackles in his 66-minute stint for Australia.
- The Kangaroos missed 38 tackles in the first half, 21 more than the Kiwis (17).
- Australia recorded their biggest Test losing margin after going down to New Zealand by 24 points in 1952 and 2005.
- Last time Kiwis beat Kangaroos was in 2018.
Play of the Game
With the Kiwis boasting a 6-0 lead, the Kangaroos looked to strike back early but winger Ronaldo Mulitalo produced a monster shot to deny Valentine Holmes an early opportunity on the line in a crucial momentum shifter for New Zealand.
Mulitalo lays out Holmes
What They Said
"I can't question effort and attitude, we made heaps of errors but I feel like that's a reflection of how New Zealand played, they were the better side today. We had a lot of difficulty trying to put their big men on the ground and had a lot of offloads against us which takes it out of you. It hurts, no one likes losing but we've got to move forward. I commend the players for the last month, they've been terrific ambassadors for the game." - Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga
"You never think a test match is going to be 30-0 but there's something special within this group which I've always believed. Just the way the groups come together, I felt like they had a performance like that but I was really pleased with how they were able to defend the way they did. There was a feeling in the change room last year (World Cup) that I never want again and I think the players felt the same. That's why I say there is something special within this group, when you go through a bit of adversity and you come out the other side which I knew they would, I'm just really proud of them." - Kiwis coach Michael Maguire
Pacific Championships Press Conference: Kangaroos v Kiwis - Final, 2023