Meninga content with Australia progress


Mal Meninga felt Australia improved on their previous success against New Zealand when recording a 14-8 Four Nations triumph over the Kiwis in Coventry on Saturday.

The Kangaroos beat their trans-Tasman rivals 26-6 in Perth last month, but had to settle for a narrower victory at the Ricoh Arena.

Australia were nevertheless deserved winners, although a strong finish from New Zealand, which saw Shaun Johnson create a superb try for Jordan Rapana before almost crossing himself in the final seconds, provided a late scare.

A satisfied Meninga said: "I thought we were fairly dominant for most of the game, but just couldn't put them away. Full marks to the Kiwis, they just kept hanging in there and came up with some special efforts.

"[It was a] bit scary at the end, of course, but I thought we did enough to win the game.

"The Kiwis played really well, but I thought our performance was even better than the Perth game - that's my personal opinion. I thought defensively we were very good for most of the game, it wasn't until Shaun Johnson started to run and do some individual brilliance that they started to worry us a bit."

Meninga, who described Blake Ferguson as "outstanding" following a man-of-the-match performance from the Sydney Roosters back, will now prepare for a meeting with England in London next Sunday.

An Australia-New Zealand rematch in the final looks likely at this stage, but Wayne Bennett's England - disappointing in victory over Scotland on Saturday - could yet spring a shock.

"They [England] probably wouldn't have been happy with their performance tonight, so they'll obviously want to try and improve," said Meninga.

"They have to win next week, so they'll be desperate and we've got to counteract that by keeping on doing the things we're doing and trying to execute a bit better than we did tonight."

Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith, meanwhile, highlighted the belief within his squad following their third win over New Zealand in 2016.

"I think overall, the performance tonight, we were probably at about 75 per cent, 80 per cent of our capabilities," said the hooker.

"One of the biggest assets that Mal brings to the side is self-belief and encouraging belief in your team-mates. I think that's the biggest difference: we've regained our confidence in ourselves."