Kiwis scrape past Samoa in Four Nations
November 1st, 2014, 07:58 PMKiwis coach Stephen Kearney was a relieved man after his side escaped with a 14-12 win over outsiders Samoa in an absorbing Four Nations rugby league clash in Whangarei.
Samoa led for most of the contest on Saturday before being sunk by a try to centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall five minutes from time.
Kearney admitted he was "bloody nervous" with about 15 minutes to go.
He had anticipated a tough challenge from Samoa and his players had prepared that way, but what they got exceeded expectations.
"We were a little bit off the ball and that's the lesson for us," he said.
"I thought Samoa were wonderful and really took it to us."
New Zealand have two wins from two matches, but their performance against Samoa was well below what they produced in thumping Australia 30-12 last week.
Kearney partly put the Kiwis' display down to what the Samoans brought with them.
"Just the tenacity that they defended with and the energy that they carried the ball," he said.
"A lot of credit has to go with them."
Samoa also came close in round one, losing to England 32-26, and coach Matt Parish took issue with the officiating in both matches.
"Last week there were three video decisions that went against us, cost us 14 points," he said.
"Today we led all but at the end, got penalised 6-2 in the second half in a tough game.
"We've got a squad of shattered blokes down there. What do you say to them?
"Do you think they could do any more than they did today? No, I don't either."
The referee against the Kiwis was New Zealander Henry Perenara, who was also the video referee for the England Test.
Asked if a neutral should have controlled the fixture at Toll Stadium, Parish said: "That's an understatement."
However, Parish also said the Kiwis' key players stood up when they needed to, and he repeated a prediction he made during the week.
"I'm not taking anything away from them," he said.
"Again, I think they're going to win the tournament."
Both sides scored three tries, but Kiwis halfback Shaun Johnson landed the sole conversion in the windy conditions.
Samoa made a lively start, their forwards hitting the ball up with intent.
They took the lead in the sixth minute with winger Tautau Moga intercepting a Peta Hiku pass for an 80-metre runaway try.
The home side struck back quickly with five-eighth Kieran Foran running into a hole and then forcing his way over.
But Samoa went in front again after an excellent backline move ended with winger Daniel Vidot latching on to Ben Roberts' deft kick.
They extended their advantage early in the second half through impressive centre Joey Leilua, who proved a handful for the Kiwis.
Leilua produced a big fend on Kenny-Dowall before touching down.
But the Kiwis got back to within two points with just over a quarter to go.
Hiku's kick into the in-goal resulted in the repeat set from which winger Jason Nightingale scored in the corner to set up a tense finish.
The match was preceded by a minute's silence for 17-year-old Luke Tipene, a New Zealand age group representative who was killed in a mass brawl in Auckland in the early hours of Saturday.