By STEVE MASCORD
FURIOUS coach Matt Parish claimed Samoa had been treated “like second class citizens” after another agonising late defeat at the Four Nations.
A 75th minute try by centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall saved the Kiwis from suffering the first loss by a top-three country in the history of the tournament – but Parish was fuming over the decision to appoint New Zealander Henry Perenara as referee.
Asked what stuck out in his mind about an epic contest played in front of 16,912 fans at Whangarei’s Toll Stadium, Parish replied: “The 6-2 penalty count in the second half.
“Last week there were three video refereeing decisions that went against us and cost us 14 points. Today, we led all but the end and got penalised 6-2 in the second half in a tough game.
“Who was the video ref last week?” he asked journalists. It was Perenara.
Parish continued: “I’ve got a whole team of shattered blokes down there. What do you say to them? Do you think they could do any more than they did out there today?
“Mate, we get treated like second class citizens. It’s about time they took a bit of notice.”
Earlier, long serving Test referee and World Cup match officials board member Stuart Cummins said the decision to appoint Perenara to a New Zealand game and Aussie Gerard Sutton to Sunday’s Anglo-Australian Test in Melbourne meant international football had “gone backwards”.
Asked if he would like to have seen a referee from a neutral country, Parish said: “That’s an understatement.
“Ben Roberts does a kick …. Adam Blair was taking kickers out left, right and centre all day … (Frank Pritchard) pushes him, they come back and give a penalty. That’s a game changer.
“We were up 12-6 then, with 20 minutes to go. Mose Masoe’s clearly got a chicken wing – play on. Tim Simona, they get him in a headlock. Play on.
“I told these blokes, ‘if they touch our kickers, don’t cop it’.”
Pritchard admitted he was giving Perenara “constantly, too much of a spray. If I think the call is wrong, I’m definitely going to stand up and give it to him.”
Controversy aside, the Four Nations delivered its best game despite the Samoans being 7-1 outsiders. On Saturday’s evidence, New Zealand v Samoa could one day be the Pacific’s answer to State of Origin.
Fans engaged in chanting wars between singing and dancing at the natural amphitheatre in bright sunshine as Samoa scored first through winger Tautai Moga after three minutes.
By halftime, the Samoans led 8-6. After the break, centre Joey Leilua – probably the man of the match – used a giant fend on Kenny-Dowall to extend the lead to 12-6.
Centre Tim Lafai had no luck with his three conversion attempts. It’s the second week in a row Samoa have scored as many tries as their opposition only to be beaten by goal-kicking.
Two passages of play stand out from the second half.
The first was when NZ’s Issac Luke was ankle-tapped after making a break but managed to off-load. The Kiwis kept the ball alive from touchline to touchline before forcing a line dropout, with winger Jason Nightingale scoring off the next set.
The other was a forced pass by Samoa half Ben Roberts with six minutes to go, which resulted in a turnover that gave the Kiwis possession for Kenny-Dowall’s clincher in the corner.
Kiwis captain Simon Mannering used the word complacency in a fulltime interview, later saying his side tried to play too fancily. Coach Stephen Kearney admitted attitude may have been wanting.
“If you want to call that getting out of jail, you can,” said Kearney said. “Early, late – does it matter?
“It’s a Test match win and we’re very pleased downstairs to be celebrating a Test match win.’
There was a minutes silence before kick-off for young Warriors Luke Tipene, who was killed in a violent brawl in Auckland on Friday night.
A new trophy was awarded at fulltime, perhaps intended to be rugby league’s equivalent of the Americas Cup.
The Peter Leitch Trophy will be on offer to Pacific countries visiting New Zealand. On Saturday’s evidence, it won’t stay in the Shakey Isles for long.
NEW ZEALAND 14 (Keiran Foran, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Kenny Dowall tries; Shaun Johnson goal) beat SAMOA 12 (Tautai Moga, Daniel Vidot, Joey Leilua tries) at Toll Stadium, Whangarei. Referee: Henry Perenara (New Zealand). Crowd: 16,912.
Filed for: SUN-HERALD