Four Nations 2011: Australia 26-12 New Zealand

Australia began the Four Nations with a gritty 26-12 victory over defending champions New Zealand at Warrington.

They were ahead with only a minute gone as Matt Scott went over, and tries from influential Tony Williams and Johnathan Thurston put them 16-0 up at the break.

Two converted second-half tries in quick succession from Jason Nightingale and Kalifa Faifai gave the Kiwis hope.

But Darius Boyd put the Aussies back in command with a fine team try and Akuila Uate dived in to seal it late on.

After the game, Australia coach Tim Sheens hit out at the performance of English referee Phil Bentham.

"The conditions and the way it was officiated, as far as on the ground was concerned, made it a slug-fest," Sheens said.

"It is a Test match, we understand that, and we won it but if that is the standard of the speed of the game - it is probably the slowest game I have seen for a long time."

After enduring a poor first half, New Zealand needed something quickly after the interval to make a game of it and almost came up with it when a slick passing move found Nightingale in space on the right flank, but the winger's pass inside was wayward and fell at the feet of Kevin Locke, who knocked on.

However, moments later Nightingale pounced on a loose ball following a flighted kick to the corner, a try confirmed by the video referee.

With the crowd sensing a fightback, Faifai continued the New Zealand resurgence by collecting an inside pass for another converted try, closing the gap to just four points.

Boyd settled Aussie nerves, neatly collecting a pass one-handed to finish a sweeping crossfield move, inspired by a Thurston dummy.

With 10 minutes left, the Kiwis thought they had found a lifeline when Nightingale cleverly flicked the ball back from the deadball line for Locke, but replays confirmed the winger had fractionally over-stepped.

Five minutes from time, all doubts were removed when Uate managed to get his left hand on the ball as he slid in following Billy Slater's deft through-kick.

It was a competent, if not infallible performance from the Australians, who meet England at Wembley on Bonfire Night, 5 November.

And Sheens said: "Obviously a win is very important and I wouldn't have wanted to be playing England at Wembley on the back of a loss, having to win it to stay alive."

Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney added: "We got ourselves back into the contest and just lacked a bit of polish with a couple of opportunities near the try line.

"That was the disappointment but the positive is it was better than the last performance."

England's campaign begins against Wales at Leigh on Saturday, while New Zealand turn their attentions to the Welsh next weekend.

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