Johnson confident Kiwis are closing on Kangaroos

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Shaun Johnson says a late New Zealand fightback in Saturday's losing effort to Australia shows the Four Nations champions should not fear the Kangaroos.

The Kiwis went down 14-8 to their trans-Tasman rivals in Coventry, narrowing their margin of defeat from the 26-6 loss suffered in Perth last month.

Blake Ferguson and Johnathan Thurston put Australia 10 points up inside 15 minutes and the deficit was again in double figures in the closing stages, when Johnson sprung into life to brilliantly assist a Jordan Rapana try and go close to touching down himself soon afterwards.

"They got the jump on us," Johnson said. "Those tries early on, started on our side of the field with a roll on and finished on the other side of the field. 

"I don't know if we look at it as one that got away. We competed hard, had opportunities, but credit to Australia."

When asked if a third defeat to the Kangaroos this year gave them the mental edge ahead of a likely final between the two, Johnson was bullish.

"No - and that's probably what, for us, has come out of today," he said. "The first question here was 'is it one that got away?' 

"To me that suggests we were right in it the whole time. We definitely don't think they have that mental advantage over us. It's a game that we weren't good enough in again. They executed when they had to. They were the better team. 

"This is probably a bit of a different interview, isn't it, if I get the ball down at the end there. 

"I felt I was in the game the whole time tonight. I was looking for opportunities. They are a very good side, so sometimes it takes to the 70th, 75th minute to find a gap or exploit something. I'll keep sniffing ... and the boys kept trying all game.

"You look at where we were a couple of weeks back when we played these guys in Perth - they did a job on us that day. 

"Today I thought there were areas of the game that we didn't quite get right, but generally we're heading in the right direction."