NRL legend Johnathan Thurston has called for New Zealand to fix up a number of key issues ahead of the Pacific Championship final next week after their lacklustre performance against the Kangaroos. Mal Meninga's side were way too strong for a sloppy New Zealand outfit on Saturday night with Lindsay Collins scoring an unlikely double in a 36-18 victory.
New Zealand started in horrible fashion with the kick-off going out on the full, which added to an uncharacteristic performance from Jahrome Hughes in the the contest. As you would expect under a Meninga outfit, the Kangaroos were structured and precise in their sets as they wore down New Zealand at AAMI Park.
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And NRL great Thurston was critical of New Zealand's performance with a rematch ahead of the Kangaroos next week. Meninga will most likely rotate the forward pack bringing back the likes of Payne Haas and Liam Martin, which will only make New Zealand's task even more difficult to dominate field territory.
New Zealand were up for the contest ahead of the game with a fiery Haka, but a poor start meant Thurston was critical of the visitor's pressure on the world champions. "We saw the passionate Haka and the stare-off and I thought there was going to be fireworks. Then they kicked it out on the full and it deflated them," Thurston said on Channel Nine.
"There kicking game needs to be better, by the halves. Jahrome Hughes kicked one out on the full and Dylan Brown had a 20 metre restart, which gave the Kangaroos the ball back. They definitely need to start better and defend better."
Thurston did question the Kangaroos' left-edge defence in the first-half as New Zealand's Joey Manu made an impact. However, Australia kept New Zealand to just one try in the second-half as they scored three.
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) October 29, 2023
Michael Ennis impressed with Nicho Hynes performance
NRL great Michael Ennis was one to question whether Nicho Hynes has done enough to impress Meninga and keep his position as the utility for next week. Hynes made his debut for the Kangaroos off the bench and provided a try assist and two line-break assists.
However, Hynes was coming into the team with Reuben Cotter earning a rest. Meninga used Cotter against Samoa for an extra boost through the middle.
Hynes added a different prospect for the Kangaroos against New Zealand with the halfback coming into the game and adding extra dynamism around the ruck. And Ennis has claimed Meninga has a big call ahead of the Pacific Championship final on who could feature on the bench.
“It’s clear Mal freshened up his two middle forwards, there’s no doubts that Tino and Payne will be back in the middle and have been two of the elite front-rowers in the competition this season," Ennis said on Fox Sports. “I’ve been a huge supporter of (Cotter) publicly and Mal went with him on the bench against Samoa, (but) I feel like on the back of Nicho Hynes’ performance and the versatility he brings.
“Just due to the fact of minutes in the middle of the field and the influence of these two men in Collins and Carrigan, they probably don’t need another middle forward. They are better off having that versatility that Hynes brings and therefore maybe Reuben Cotter misses out next week.”
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