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Kangaroos snatch overtime thriller

By By John Whiting

Published: 11:25PM Saturday November 25, 2006 Source: ONE Sport

The Kangaroos snatched a golden-point overtime thriller 16-12 over the Kiwis in the 2006 Tri-Nations final at Aussie Stadium on Saturday night.

In one of the most exciting games of the year, Darren Lockyer scored a try in overtime to clinch the match in Australia's favour.

It was a result which could have gone either way and nothing more could have been asked for in a final to showcase the game of rugby league.

Both sides had ample opportunities to win in regulation time in five of the most pulsating minutes of football this season.

In a reverse of fortunes from last year the Kangaroos ensured New Zealand would not win back-to-back Tri-Nations crowns.

But New Zealand can hold its head high knowing the boys left everything on the field.

Some ill discipline in the opening minutes gave Australia the chance to march down the field from back-to-back penalties.

The second infringement gave Jonathan Thurston a shot at goal from right in front, the two points erasing memories of last year's shut-out for the Aussies.

But Stacey Jones returned the favour just one minute later with a penalty goal of his own.

Brent Tate scored the first try of the match after a terrific run from Mark Gasnier, who linked up with the winger just metres from the line.

Darren Lockyer and Thurston's kicking games were working well in the first half, generating some genuine scoring opportunities for the Kangaroos.

Manu Vatuvei's infamous handling issues were under the microscope as Lockyer continued to test him with high bombs.

But after an early spill Vatuvei looked solid at the back for the Kiwis.

And the New Zealand resurgence continued in the 27th minute through a piece of Stacey Jones magic on the final tackle.

Jones put through a precision chip kick for Brent Webb who turned on the jets before passing out wide to an unmarked Frank Pritchard to crash over the chalk.

Vatuvei turned villain  for the Kiwis just minutes later after knocking on a pass which hit him right in the chest just five metres from the line.

But Australia couldn't counter attack from the error as time wound down, holding on to a 10-6 halftime lead.

New Zealand came out firing in the second half with a noticeable lift in intensity.

Iosia Soliola tied the game up at ten apiece just six minutes into the stanza off the back of high-quality runs from Brent Webb and Nigel Vagana.

The deadlock didn't last long though; another Thurston goal gave Australia the advantage yet again.

The Kiwis had several opportunities to re-gain the lead through the first twenty minutes of the half, but some poor drops turned over possession deep within scoring territory.

But an obstruction from Nathan Hindmarsh with ten minutes remaining allowed Jones to knock over two points to tie the game up once more at 12-12.

In perhaps the play of the game, Soliola came up with a brilliant one-on-one strip on Greg Inglis and moved the Kiwis inside the 20m mark.

Both Jones and Webb had opportunities at field-goals with four minutes remaining after Kangaroo errors but both missed.

And just like that the momentum shifted, Cameron Smith coming up with a huge 40-20 to give Australia a chance to steal the match.

Thurston tried for a field-goal from right in front but he couldn't come up with the goods for the hosts.

The Kangaroos had the final chance in regulation to win the match but Inglis knocked on a Willie Mason grubber across the try line.

That sent the game to golden-point overtime.

Webb charged down a Lockyer attempt at goal before recovering the loose ball deep with opposition territory.

Jones had another shot on the stroke of halftime in overtime but again shaved it wide right.

Immediately after the re-start Thurston made a huge burst through centre field before finding Lockyer on the way to a try, breaking the hearts of the Kiwis 16-12.

Kangaroos 16: Tries; Brent Tate, Darren Lockyer. Goals; Jonathan Thurston (4).
Kiwis 12: Tries; Frank Pritchard, Iosia Soliola. Goals; Stacey Jones (2).
Halftime: Kangaroos 10-6.