Four Nations: New Zealand 22-18 Australia

By Shamoon HafezBBC Sport
'Magic' Johnson inspires NZ victory
Four Nations final
New Zealand (14) 22
Tries: Nightingale, Vatuvei (2), Johnson
Goals: Johnson (3)
Australia (6) 18
Tries: Jennings, Mata'utia, Hunt
Goals: Smith (3)

New Zealand secured their second Four Nations title as Shaun Johnson shone in a thrilling 22-18 win over Australia.

Michael Jennings put Australia in front after pouncing on an error but Jason Nightingale hit back for New Zealand.

Manu Vatuvei squeezed over after great work from Johnson for a half-time lead and though Sione Mata'utia crossed, Johnson's magnificent solo effort and Vatuvei's second took the Kiwis clear.

Ben Hunt cut the gap to four points and Mata'utia fumbled a chance to win it.

With time almost up, the 18-year-old might have snatched victory for the defending champions but knocked on close to the try-line in Wellington.

BBC Sport pundits on the final
Jamie Peacock: "It was a great final and indicative of the way this tournament has gone. Very competitive and compelling and New Zealand deserved to win in the end. Australia came out and started well but New Zealand's size and talent allowed them to get back into the game."
Jon Wilkin: "New Zealand look the most powerful and skilful rugby league team in the world at the moment. To watch Australia getting dominated in the first game and to get beaten in the final again, maybe we have seen a changing in the tide."
Ian Millward: "We unearthed some new superstars of the game in this tournament but we also unearthed a team that had to have quality to beat an Australian team that weren't going to give it up easily. Quality all over and this has been a tournament with a worthy winner."

It was half-back Johnson, who scored a last-gasp try against England in last year's World Cup semi-final, who was the catalyst for the hosts with his skill and pace, aided by the brutal running of the forward pack.

"We'd waited quite a while for this and I'm just so proud of the boys," he said. "It's a dream come true.

"We worked so hard this tour. It's been such an awesome tournament for the boys and to finish it off like that has just been unreal."

The triumph enabled Stephen Kearney's side to record back-to-back wins against the Kangaroos for the first time since 1953, following their 30-12 victory in the first game of a high-class competition, which they also won in 2010.

Kearney said: "We've got a great young team and the future's bright. Australia are going to keep coming back at us and the challenge is for us to keep improving."

World champions Australia, decimated by injury before the tournament and disrupted by illness in the build-up to the match, led early on as Jennings was quickest to react to touch down but they were then overrun by a rampant New Zealand team.

Four Nations: Best moments of the tournament

They showed their power in the forwards to get back into the match, particularly through Martin Taupau and Tohu Harris, who battered the Australian defensive line.

The ferocious hits were proving too much to handle and Nightingale kept up his record of scoring in every game in the competition.

Johnson showed superb footwork and composure to set up winger Vatuvei for a 14-6 advantage at the interval.

Mata'utia, Australia's youngest international, went over in the corner but Johnson showed his speed by outpacing the opposition backline before running around full-back Greg Inglis for an exceptional score.

Vatuvei powered over for his second and Hunt's try with five minutes remaining set up a tense finish but New Zealand held on.

New Zealand: Peta Hiku, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Dean Whare, Manu Vatuvei, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich, Issac Luke, Adam Blair, Simon Mannering (captain), Kevin Proctor, Jason Taumalolo.

Replacements: Lewis Brown, Greg Eastwood, Martin Taupau, Tohu Harris

Australia: Greg Inglis, Josh Mansour, Michael Jennings, Dylan Walker, Sione Mata'utia, Daly Cherry-Evans, Cooper Cronk, Aaron Woods, Cameron Smith (captain), Josh Papalii, Sam Thaiday, Greg Bird, Corey Parker.

Replacements: Boyd Cordner, Ben Hunt, Josh Jackson, David Klemmer

Referee: Phil Bentham (Eng).

Jason Nightingale
Jason Nightingale scored with an acrobatic effort for New Zealand
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson put in a man-of-the-match performance for the Kiwis
Australia players
Australia lost back-to-back games against New Zealand for the first time since 1953
New Zealand celebrate
New Zealand recorded their second Four Nations triumph after winning the title in 2010