By STEVE MASCORD
THE Kiwis’ Four Nations title defence finished prematurely yesterday with no regrets but coach Stephen Kearney issued a stern warning to errant hooker Issac Luke and utility Thomas Leuluai admitted some of his team-mates may have resented Rangi Chase chosing to play for England.
The World Cup holders were comprehensively beaten, 28-6, in front of a partisan 23,447 crowd at Hull’s KC Stadium. The English will play Australia in Next Saturday’s final at Elland Road while at least three New Zealanders face anxious waits to discover if they are to start next season under suspension.
Prop Ben Matulino took English fullback Sam Tomkins high in the seventh minute but it was back rower Jeremy Smith who was booked for then coming down on the Wigan star’s face as he lay on the ground.
But the most alarming incident – certainly for incoming South Sydney coach Michael Maguire – was Luke’s involvement in his third controversial tackle in as many games, right on halftime after he felled halfback Chase.
As the New Zealand-born England player was getting to his feet, he clutched a knee after an apparent second action from Luke. “It was an attempt to hurt the player on the ground by twisting his leg,” referee Matt Cecchin told Luke, “It’s on report”.
Kearney didn’t mince words about the situation when interviewed by APNZ: “That’s an area of his game that he’ll need to address,” Kearney said. “I’m fairly sure it won’t be tolerated down in the NRL.”
Chase, a controversial England selection on residential grounds, embraced Luke at fulltime and went immediately to the Kiwis rooms afterwards. Earlier, however, he had exchanged words with New Zealand captain Benji Marshall.
When starting rake Thomas Leuluai was asked about Chase being targeted, he suggested personal resentment rather than tactics may have been the reason. “The boys have played with him a bit and were a bit disappointed with his decision but for me personally, I don’t have a problem with it,” said Leuluai, after weeks of quotes about the Kiwis “respecting Rangi’s decision”.
England led 8-0 at halftime after Kiwis half Kieran Foran had an early try disallowed and went further ahead when winger Ryan Hall crossed one-handed in the corner two minutes after the resumption.
Jason Nightingale pegged one back with 19 minutes to play, before late tries to Tomkins and James Graham secured the result. A huge early penalty count against the Kiwis and an early shoulder injury to fullback Kevin Locke – who bravely tried to play on – exacted a high price, Kearney said.
“They were very disciplined in everything they did and we were the opposite,” the coach said. “I don’t think we should disregard the big penalty count. There was warrant for most of them.”
But unlike the last time England eliminated New Zealand from a Four Nations, there would be no regrets according to captain Marshall.
“This whole tour, in terms of success, has not been where we want it to be,” he said, “but in terms of development of our younger players and to see how well they performed throughout this tournament, is something that as captain I’m very proud of.
“We didn’t play to anything near our potential and that’s the hardest thing to swallow.
“The preparation was spot on … off the field we conducted ourselves in a high manner and probably the best standard I’ve seen for us. On the field, we didn’t execute as well as we did off the field.”
Asked about next week’s final, Kearney said “Australia won’t give them 10 or so penalties” while Leuluai said: “I’ll go for an upset, I’m picking England. If they play like that, complete their sets, take their chances….
“They might have surprised some of the other boys but I knew they could play.”
ENGLAND 28 (Tom Briscoe, Ryan Hall, James Graham, Sam Tomkins tries; Kevin Sinfield 5 goals) beat NEW ZEALAND 6 (Jason Nightingale try; Benji Marshall goal) at KC Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin (Australia). Crowd: 23,447
Filed for: NEW ZEALAND HERALD
Final team lists:
ENGLAND: Sam Tomkin (Wigan); Ryan Hall (Leeds), Jack Reed (Brisbane), Kirk Yeaman (Hull), Tom Briscoe (Hull); Kevin Sinfield (Leeds), Rangi Chase (Castleford); Chris Heighington (Wests Tigers); Ben Westwood (Warrington), Jon Wilkin (St Helens), Jamie Peacock (capt, Leeds), James Roby (St Helens), James Graham (St Helens).
Reserves: Gareth Widdop (Melbourne), Adrian Morley (Warrington), Jamie Jones-Buchanan (Leeds), Garreth Carvell (Warrington)
NEW ZEALAND: Kevin Locke (Warriors); Gerard Beale (Brisbane), Lewis Brown (Warriors), Simon Mannering (Warriors), Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra); Benji Marshall (capt, Wests Tigers), Kieran Foran (Manly); Jeremy Smith (Cronulla), Adam Blair (Melbourne), Sika Manu (Melbourne), Russell Packer (Warriors), Thomas Leuluai (Wigan), Ben Matulino (Warriors).
Reserves: Issac Luke (South Sydney), Alex Glenn (Brisbane), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), Elijah Taylor (Warriors).
Halftime: England 8-0. Video referee: Ian Smith (England)