Three wins from three for Australia against New Zealand with victory in Coventry
Australia survived a dramatic finish to make it three wins out of three against New Zealand in 2016 to move inexorably closer to regaining the world number one ranking from their arch rivals.
The Kangaroos followed up their opening 54-12 Ladbrokes Four Nations win over Scotland with a scrappy but more telling 14-8 victory over the Kiwis in front of what was left of the 21,009 crowd at Coventry\'s Ricoh Arena for the second half of the double header.
New Zealand, fresh from their morale-boosting 17-16 win over England, were far more competitive than in their two earlier defeats by Mal Meninga\'s men and will take confidence from their latest performance if the teams meet again in the Anfield final on November 20.
Trailing 14-4 with four minutes left, Shaun Johnson produced a trademark moment of magic to create a try for winger Jordan Rapana to cut the gap to six points and crossed himself with just seconds left but was unable to ground the ball.
Man of the match was Kangaroos winger Blake Ferguson, who took Darius Boyd\'s pinpoint pass to cross at the corner after nine minutes and four minutes later cut inside following smart work from Michael Morgan to get Johnathan Thurston over.
Thurston\'s first goal made it 10-0 and that is how it stayed until half-time, although the Kangaroos twice went close to doubling their score with centre Justin O\'Neill held short of the line by a desperate tackle from Adam Blair and substitute prop David Klemmer held up on his back.
The Kiwis had their moments but their best chance of the first half came 20 metres from their own line when Rapana intercepted Boyd\'s pass to race into space and was only denied a long-range try by a last-ditch ankle tap from Greg Inglis.
New Zealand were the first to strike in the second half, with centre Solomone Kata producing a strong finish at the corner to score his first try for his country.
Johnson was unable to convert, though, and Australia re-established a two-score advantage with a Thurston penalty on 54 minutes.
As the Kangaroos pressed for the clinching score, Ferguson thought he had got it when he came up with an acrobatic finish at the corner but referee Ben Cummins disallowed the try for a forward pass.
Thurston settled for another penalty to stretch the lead but there was almost another twist in the last few minutes.
Johnson re-gathered his own kick over the Australian defence to create a third try in two Four Nations games for Rapana but was again wide the conversion attempt and was then turned onto his back as he attempted to go over for what might have been an equalising score.