DAVID Skipwith examines three key points from the Kangaroos' 26-6 trans-Tasman Test drubbing of the Kiwis at Perth's nib Stadium last night.
1. Highly rated Kiwis forwards found wanting
The Kiwis' much-vaunted forward pack failed to live up to their reputation as one of the biggest and best to wear the black and white, and were comprehensively outgunned by their green and gold opposites.
The Kiwis forwards were found wanting with the ball in hand, with bench forwards Martin Taupau (129m) and Manu Ma'u (99m) making the most yards, while five others failed to get over 70 metres.
Taupau's busted five tackles through his hard running, and made a clean break in the second half, but the Manly enforcer had no support and the Kangaroos were let off the hook.
Recalled front-rower Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was disappointing, with the Sydney Roosters firebrand again failing to bring his outstanding club form to the international arena, and captain Jesse Bromwich had an unusually quiet outing.
Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo was under-utilised by coach David Kidwell, but the Dally M winner struggled to make an impact in his limited time on the park and was easily contained.
Bench prop Adam Blair tried hard to inspire his teammates and Melbourne Storm back-rowers Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris led the way defensively with 44 and 35 tackles each.
In comparison, Australia had six forwards run in excess of 100 metres with try-scoring back-rower Boyd Cordner (141m) and senior prop Matt Scott (134m) the standouts.
2. Poor last-tackle plays from sloppy Kiwis
The Kiwis' fifth-tackle options were awful, with halfback Shaun Johnson struggling to put any sustained pressure on Australia or engineer repeat sets.
The Warriors playmaker failed to take the game by the scruff of the neck, and while the forwards' below-par effort did not help, he rarely tested the Kangaroos defence and made just three runs for 17 metres.
Johnson persisted with targeting Kangaroos debutant Valentine Holmes with high balls, looking to isolate him in the unfamiliar position on the left-wing against Kiwis newcomer Jordan Rapana, but the Sharks flyer handled everything that came his way.
Five-eighth Thomas Leuluai was the dominant playmaker and strong on both attack and defence, but there was little cohesion and direction in the Kiwis' backline play and their reliance on set-plays proved ineffective.
Hooker Issac Luke was quiet with the ball and did little to take the pressure off his halves.
3. Kangaroos clear favourites heading into Four Nations
The Kiwis might hold the No.1 world ranking and be reigning champions but head into the Four Nations having suffered twin losses to Australia.
The Kangaroos' five-tries-to-one victory followed their 16-0 Anzac Test win in Newcastle in May, and showed why the Mal Meninga-coached side will be favourites when the tournament gets under way in England in a fortnight's time.
With captain Cameron Smith and halves Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston calling the shots in a side containing three debutants, the Kangaroos looked composed and clinical while focusing on getting the basics right.
It's expected New Zealand will improve throughout its month-long campaign but last night's scrappy display showed they have a long way to go to close the gap on Australia.