Australia should rightly back themselves for the win after a flawless campaign, but they'll be aware of the Kiwi's never say die spirit seen last weekend in the Semi-final against England, the same attitude that clinched the cup in 2008.
To make the final New Zealand had to beat England in front of a huge home crowd at London's Wembley stadium in full noise, and it was pure passion and a bit of luck and Sean Johnson magic that saw them through.
England were ahead by four points in the bruising encounter with only one minute left on the clock, when Sonny Bill Williams was tackled high resulting in a penalty. The Kiwi's tapped and ran for their last set of six with less than 30 seconds left on the clock, and the English line was up hard and fast to shut any move down. The ball landed with Sean Johnson, and he goose stepped, then side stepped and accelerated towards the line, and crossed for the match leveling try.
Johnson then had the conversion to win and says he was a bag of nerves approaching the kicking tee, after having goal kicking issues early in the NRL season. It was the sort of things dreams were made of, as the kick sailed over and he singlehandedly won the match for the kiwi's and dashed the English hopes of a grand final. Johnson says "You like to play those moments as a kid and it's unreal the way it worked out."
The Kiwi's brutal and gutsy win was described by Sonny Bill Williams as the hardest game of his career, "I don't think I've felt like that before on a footy field," Williams said. "Everything hurts," he said. "I've even got scratches on my face. I got given a bit out there, but I certainly gave a bit as well."
Kiwi's Coach Stephen Kearney says despite the win, it was a far from a perfect performance. The kiwi camp will know they'll have to raise the level of play another notch if they're going to retain the biggest prize in international league. The Kiwi's had every bit of their armor and all of their nerves tested by the English, and in stark contrast the Australians were barely troubled in their semi final against Fiji.
The Kangaroos belted Fiji 64-0 and although they were able to test their combinations and finishing, I'm not sure whether their mental strength and determination in the face of adversity was tested at all. The clinical Kangaroos haven't conceded a point in the last three matches, so the Kiwi attack will have to breach the Australian line with their talent and muscle and get Australia on the back foot. Neither team will have home advantage, but both teams will know it's winner takes all, and I'm expecting a tight game.
I'll admit I'm a true Kiwi optimist, and I hope for the best, but I know that Australia will want to make amends for losing the World Cup four years ago and I think their skill and game plan will be too much for the Kiwis. Come next Sunday at Old Trafford, if the Kiwi's can somehow stay within reach on the score board and have the game of their lives, they've got the players to spark some magic and things could fall their way in the dying minutes for what I hope is a repeat of the English match!
Brad Mills enjoys the outdoors and almost any sport... For a day job he's a journalist who works at the Rhema Broadcasting Group in Auckland New Zealand.
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