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Smith seals Kangaroos success
Australia overcome fierce rivals in ANZAC Test in Auckland
Australia made a winning start to life after Darren Lockyer as they overcame neighbours New Zealand 20-12 in the one-off ANZAC Test at Auckland's Eden Park.
The Kangaroos were indebted to Lockyer's successor as they closed out a hard-fought win, skipper Cameron Smith re-gathering his own grubber kick close to the New Zealand line and forcing his way over for the match-clinching try 11 minutes from the end.
New Zealand had their sights set on a first ANZAC Test win since 1998 when hooker Isaac Luke gave them the lead with the game's first try, but Australia took control with two tries in a decisive five-minute spell and did just enough to hang on.
It was New Zealand who had to withstand some early pressure but, having done so, loose forward Jeremy Smith was thrown back from the line and prop Sam McKendry was held inches short before Luke dummied his way over for the opening score on 11 minutes.
Benji Marshall's goal made it 6-0 but the Kangaroos responded in impressive style as two quick tries putting them ahead.
Two quick tries
Johnathan Thurston, who has inherited Lockyer's number six jersey, took Smith's pass and sidestepped past Marshall to touch down midway through the first half and, shortly afterwards, Billy Slater's scything run got centre Greg Inglis over.
Thurston converted both tries to make it 12-6 but the visitors were reduced to 12 men on 32 minutes when English referee Richard Silverwood sent Slater to the sin-bin for an obstruction on Alex Glenn - although the Kiwis' claims for a penalty try were denied by the video referee.
Australia managed to increase the lead despite their numerical disadvantage, Thurston kicking a penalty on the stroke of half-time, but the Kiwis cut the gap to just two points five minutes into the second half when Johnson intercepted Cooper Cronk's pass and sprinted 80 minutes for his side's second try.
A desperate tackle from Kiwis full-back Josh Hoffman denied centre Justin Hodges as Australia went for the clincher, but there was no stopping Smith whose individual effort settled the contest.
"We didn't get away to such a great start but I'm really pleased with way we hung in," said new captain Smith. "The Kiwis kept coming at us all night and made us work very hard."Super League. Click here to bet.