Australia coach Mal Meninga fired a warning that the Kangaroos can get even better after they edged New Zealand 16-14 in a classic Rugby League World Cup semi-final at Elland Road.

The double defending champions twice battled back from behind to reach next week’s final at Old Trafford, where they will take on the winners of Sunday’s showdown between England and Samoa.

“We haven’t had a match like that for a number of years and I felt that in my experience that was one of the best Test matches I’ve been involved in,” said the vastly experienced Meninga.

“I think we can be better because of that. We can learn from that but that’s what playing for your country produces – games like that where you’ve got to find that little bit extra in the way you play, or in your effort levels to get that victory.”

Meninga was especially pleased with the way his side faced up to adversity, with Dylan Brown crossing for the opening try and the Kangaroos having to ride their luck at times as the Kiwis had two second-half tries ruled out.

“I’m really pleased with the effort and commitment and all those characteristics you want in the players,” added Meninga. “Both teams displayed that and both teams wanted to win. We did a little bit better than they did.”

New Zealand coach Michael Maguire bemoaned “a couple of moments” that could have cost his side a historic victory and a place in the World Cup final.

Peta Hiku was denied twice due to marginal infringements, and a brief lapse in concentration allowed Cameron Murray to wriggle over for what turned out to be the winning try.

Maguire said: “I’m definitely proud of the players – it was one hell of an effort and it could have gone either way, and unfortunately it didn’t go our way.

“I really believe that we are closing the gap in a big way at this level and we need to play more to find the moments it takes to to win it.

“It could have been a different story and I feel for them. You look at your players and they deserve the opportunity to go again next week. I’m just really shattered for the players.”

The Kangaroos will now head into the final as almost unbackable favourites, but Kiwis captain Jesse Bromwich believes his side’s first-half performance gives hope that the final will not be a formality.

“What we did today in the first half was a really good game plan for whoever plays them next week,” said Bromwich.

“We put so much effort into this tournament and to fall just short like this is pretty heartbreaking.”



Source link