It has been a quick 3 weeks of preliminary matches and after the four sides have played met; we are left with two teams who have earned their right to feature here. It is no surprise to see Australia and New Zealand face off against one another; the Final that looked destined to occur after the Kiwis beat England in Week 1. England still had their chance though, after the Kiwis were held to a draw by Scotland last week, they needed to come out and beat Australia to feature here. They were unsuccessful and the progress they need to make between now and next years World Cup needs to be immense. These two teams are at the peak of international rugby league and it is fitting that they will do battle here. The challenge ahead of the Kiwis is immense, with the standard that Australia have set being higher of previous years. The inclusion of Mal Meniga as coach has given them pride that was once absent and they can come out and prove their worth with a win at one of the spiritual homes of football, Anfield.
They have named a similar team, with Thaiday dropping out of the 17 due to injury and Shannon Boyd taking up the vacant bench spot. All players over the series have made a statement of some sort and the inclusion of Cronk last week proved how vital he is to their chances. He was rested in their last clash and you can expect the class to come back to the execution here.
Thomas Leuluai has been ruled out and there is no clear guide to his replacement. The obvious choice for the Kiwis is Penrith rookie Te Maire Martin, although Tohu Harris’ name has also been floated around. Either way, they will have a difficult time of supporting Shaun Johnson. His form has been questionable of late and you can expect the Kangaroos to pressure him at every opportunity. Their strength is within their forwards and you can expect a brutal encounter up front.
Overall = Australia 98 Draw 3 New Zealand 32
Last 5 matches = Australia 3 New Zealand 2
These two sides have faced off 3 times this year, with Australia winning all. They are clearly the superior team heading into this game given their form during the tournament, but you have to be wary of New Zealand. They have been known to spring a surprise or two and will be out to take the battle to the Aussies in the forwards. That is where they are strongest, although they will need the same support from their halves and it doesn’t appear as though they will get it. Johnson isn’t playing to the same standard that we’ve come to expect from him and it will hurt his teams chances here. Regardless of how much power they generate up front, they still lack the finishing touches to make it count. Their last score line against the Australian’s flattered them somewhat; yet when you delve deeper, the Kangaroos were without Cronk at 7 and switched off once they clicked clear. You can expect a different performance here. Quite simply, the Kiwis do not have what it takes to match the Aussies. The Kangaroos demonstrated how dominant they can be in their two most recent meeting and the same is expected here. Sure, the Kiwis have proven themselves worthy in the past the longer the tournament progresses; although they have remarkably different leaders at the helm and steering them in a new direction.
Australia -11.5 @ $1.90
Hop into this = Australia 13-18 @ $4.50 – They’ve proven how dominant they are throughout the tournament and this game should be no different. As mentioned above, the Kiwis lack the same force they once had and it is questionable as to where their points will come from.