New Zealand 20-34 Australia
Kangaroos claim convincing win
Australia struck a major psychological blow ahead of next Saturday's Four Nations final after cruising to a 34-20 victory over a disappointing New Zealand in the final group match in Auckland.
The Kangaroos chose to rest skipper Darren Lockyer and full-back Billy Slater but still had too much class for their full-strength opponents in a feisty affair in front of a bumper crowd of 44,324 at a new-look Eden Park, the hot-bed of rugby union in New Zealand.
With home advantage at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium, Australia will be red-hot favourites to retain their crown.
The only consolation for the Kiwis, who had shown the best form going into the match, was a superlative performance from skipper Benji Marshall, who shone like a beacon in a well-beaten side.
The Kangaroos seized control inside 23 minutes when they led 18-2 thanks to tries from scrum-half Cooper Cronk, winger Brett Morris and centre Brent Tate, all converted by the immaculate boot of acting captain Cameron Smith.
Substitute forward Frank Pritchard pulled a try back for the home side on 30 minutes and Marshall and Issac Luke kicked penalty goals to make it 18-10 at the interval but the Aussies put the game to bed with two more tries early in the second half.
Tate and Morris both made light of some sloppy defensive work to double their tally and debutant Todd Carney added both goals to stretch his side's lead to 34-10.
In danger of being blitzed, the Kiwis rallied to make the final scoreline respectable with late tries from winger Jason Nightingale and centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall, both crafted by the sleight of hand of Marshall.