By STEVE MASCORD
EVEN Benji Marshall was calling James Tamou “Aussie Jim” last night when the most controversial representative selection in years won Australia’s players’ player award after helping dismantle the country of his birth.
Fellow North Queensland prop Matt Scott was the offical man of the match but Tamou wasn’t far behind in the 18-10 win at Dairy Farmers Stadium, scoring his side’s second try in the 34th minute and making a crucial break as the game see-sawed before 26,479 fans.
“He’s made his decision and we’re far past that now.
“Big Sammy (Kasiano) made his decision to play with us and that’s all that matters to us. Good luck to James Aussie Jim apparently. Good luck to him.”
Asked if he expected more players to choose New Zealand over Australia, he said: “If people want to play for us, we’ll take them. If they don’t, like I said, good luck to them.”
There were more than a few anxious moments for the Australians before 26,479 fans last night – and coach Tim Sheens made a contentious decision to demote lock Nate Myles from his starting side – but in the end his men snuck home. It was the same margin as the previous Test between the countries on April 20.
The Australians, clinging to a two-point lead, sealed victory with winger Darius Boyd’s converted try behind the posts after a left-side backline raid with nine minutes left.
It was 10-10 at the end of an entertaining first half, Gerard Beale’s well-taken try just before the break levelling the ledger.
The New Zealanders applied pressure from the get-go, Benji Marshall’s little kick for Sam Perrett in the fourth minute almost bringing points.
Three minutesd later, the Kiwis were in, hooker Issac Luke plunging over from dummy-half and video referees Paul Simpkins and Leon Williamson ruling out the possibility of a double movement.
Having apparently won a shoot-out with Marshall for the goal-kicking duties, Krisnan Inu added the extras.
Handling errors stymied the Australian attack early – but one hooker’s try was countered by another when Cameron Smith scrambled over for a try Johnathan Thurston was unable to convert at 23 minutes.
In the corresponding game last year, the Kiwi defence capitulated quickly. They were made of much sterner stuff last night, with Australia winger Brett Morris bundled into touch after a period of sustained home-team pressure.
Cooper Cronk seemed certain to pass to Melbourne team-mate Ryan Hoffman as he drifted crossfield in the 34th minute – but instead he offloaded to James Tamou who used his trademark step to cross for his first Test try.
“Is it just me,” tweeted former Kiwis foward Joe Galuvao, “or did Tamou go to hug a Kiwi before realising he had just scored for Australia?”
Thuston’s goal seemed to put the Australians in control but the determined pursuit of a Benji Marshall kick by Kiwis winger Sam Perrett.
Out-leaping Billy Slater, Perrett scooped the ball to Luke whose excellent long pass found Dean Whare. Brisbane’s Beale was on the end of the movement to cross just inside the corner post, tying up the Test.
There was no lessening of the intensity after halftime, with the third quarter of the one-off international remaining scoreless.
A break by New Zealand replacement Elijah Taylor proved costly for the Australians even though he was hauled down 15 metres short. In backplay, interchange forward Ryan Hoffman was down with ankle ligament damage and had to be helped off.
Centre Greg Inglis, involved in the chase on Taylor, received attention for a left-knee injury but was able to continue.
Hometown hero Johnathan Thurston seemed to have scored a crucial try at 60 minutes but referee Ben Cummins could not be sure he grounded the ball cleanly in the tackle of Josh Hoffman and sent the matter upstairs, saying: “He’s held up but I want to know if he got it down before he was held up. I have an opinion.”
But Williamson and Simpkins did not need to ask Cummins what his opinion was – the try was disallowed.
When Inu and Marshall were pinged for stealing the ball off Inglis two minutes later, the Australians paid their respects to the steely Kiwis defence by opting for a penalty goal, which five-eighth Thurston duly landed for 12-10.
Coach Tim Sheens made a change to his starting side by including Tony Williams at the expense of nominated lock Nate Myles. Myles did not enter the contest until the 56th minute, with Robbie Farah making his first appearance around the same time.
Australia centre Josh Morris was penalised for a double movement in the final five minutes.
AUSTRALIA 12 (Cameron Smith, James Tamou, Darius Boyd tries; Johnathan Thurston 3 goals) beat NEW ZEALAND 10 (Issac Luke, Gerard Beale tries; Krisnan Inu goal) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins (Australia). Crowd: 26,479.
Filed for: SUN-HERALD