New Zealand’s hearts were broken on Saturday morning (AEDT) when Australia ended their World Cup campaign with a 16-14 win to progress through to the final.
Joey Manu had moments of brilliance but even he couldn’t inspire a Kiwis win.
Joe Tapine and Isaiah Papali’i rolled up their sleeves and got through a mountain of work for their country and Dylan Brown stepped up but was contained in the second half.
Meanwhile, both Jordan Rapana and Brandon Smith had moments they’d like to take back.
Read on for New Zealand’s player ratings.
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Madge tears up after semi final loss | 01:44
1. JOSEPH MANU 8
His impact was felt early when he outleapt a couple of Aussies to catch a cross-field kick and get it away for Jahrome Hughes to score New Zealand’s first try. Was safe under the high ball despite efforts from Nathan Cleary and Cameron Munster to rattle him — but did knock-on in a tackle in the second half. And you couldn’t fault his effort to stop Jack Wighton less than a metre out from the line… even if Wighton did get the ball away for a Kangaroos try.
2. RONALDO MULITALO 7.5
Produced big plays on both sides of the ball before suffering a game-ending knee injury. Came up with big tackle early on James Tedesco, then made a break down the sideline minutes later and was able to keep the ball in as he got tackled over the sideline. Came up with another important tackle on Liam Martin and not long after broke down the sideline again and this time set up Dylan Brown with a perfectly timed pass.
21. CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD 5.5
Missed a crucial tackle on Jack Wighton in the lead-up to Australia’s first try. But got the ball away quickly in the lead-up to Dylan Brown’s try for the Kiwis.
4. PETA HIKU 5.5
Put pressure on Josh Addo-Carr under high ball at times but could have gotten more involved. Missed five tackles but did scramble to stop Nathan Cleary scoring in the final five minutes.
5. JORDAN RAPANA 5
Very much a mixed bag for the veteran winger. Jordan Rapana crunched Josh Addo-Carr in a one-on-one tackle and forced him to knock on later in the first half, but the Kangaroos speedster left him in the dust to score Australia’s first try. Rapana was pinged for being off-season in what could have been a Kiwis try to open the second half and then lost the ball cold in a tackle while in his own half. But gave New Zealand some much-needed spark when he ran through Valentine Holmes late in the game.
6. DYLAN BROWN 7
Stepped up his kicking game up big time to ease pressure on Jahrome Hughes, putting up plenty of bombs and cross-field kicks, including the one that set up the try for his halves partner. Got a well-deserved try just before half time, but took his foot off the gas in the second half.
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Smith, Grant share nice haka moment | 01:20
7. JAHROME HUGHES 6.5
Scored the first try of the game but was outshone by Brown in the first. Became the more dominant playmaker in the second half and didn’t stop trying to produce a gamechanging moment. Also came up with a try-saving ankle tap onJosh Addo-Carr.
8. JESSE BROMWICH 5
Didn’t have much of an impact on the game and didn’t feature at all in the second half. Finished with just 25 running metres but did make 16 tackles with zero misses.
9. BRANDON SMITH 5.5
Came up with a try-saving tackle on Isaah Yeo but then gave away penalty for laying in the ruck. Then had a moment he’d like back when he let Cameron Murray ran straight through him to score what ended up being the matchwinner. Still made 28 tackles (with four misses) though.
10. JAMES FISHER-HARRIS 7
Dominated his rival props, with only Patrick Carrigan coming close to his 105 running metres. Also busy in defence, making 29 tackles (with three misses).
11. ISAIAH PAPALI’I 8
New Zealand’s most important forward, racking up 124 running metres off 18 runs — the most of any forward on the field. Also got four tackle busts, a linebreak assists and two offloads as well as 27 tackles with just one miss.
17. BRITON NIKORA 5.5
Was busy in defence with 28 tackles (three misses), but could have gotten more involved in attack. Only took four runs for 24 metres.
13 JOSEPH TAPINE 8
Couldn’t fault his effort and was flawless on both sides of the ball, finishing with 102 running metres, a tackle bust, three offloads and a team-high 31 tackles with zero misses.
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The FLYING FOXX scores an absurd try | 00:44
Had limited opportunities but was solid in an unfamiliar position, making 17 tackles with just one miss.
15. MOSES LEOTA 6
Whether it was legal or not, he forced Cameron Murray to knock on five metres out from New Zealand’s line. The Kiwis debutant almost had a moment of glory when he produced a perfect pass for a try, but it was ultimately disallowed.
16. NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA 7
Was a beast off the bench, barging through several tackles. But then he let Cameron Murray barge through him to score the matchwinning try.
Was a surprise inclusion on the bench over Kenny Bromwich but did his job without a fuss. Finished with 63 running metres and 12 tackles with zero misses.