Rugby League: Australia Jillaroos pip Kiwi Ferns in thriller

A late Jillaroos try ended hopes of a stunning come-from-behind win for the Kiwi Ferns at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.

The Ferns led 24-22 with five minutes remaining, after fighting their way back from a 12-4 halftime deficit, but a try to Isabelle Kelly sealed the win for the Australians in Auckland.

New Zealand were their own worst enemies at times, especially in the first half, as silly mistakes and poor decision-making let them down in a thrilling encounter.

At the same time, they had some calls go against them, which didn't help proceedings, one in particular, when Honey Hireme was deemed to have stepped in touch, although replays showed otherwise, midway through the first half.

The hosts got off to the worst start possible, with the Jillaroos scoring twice in the opening 10 minutes, through winger Julia Robinson and five-eighth Ali Brigginshaw.

Australia should have added a third, but some desperate goal-line defence from the Ferns kept them at bay.

Once the Ferns put the errors to bed and got decent field position, the game started to even out and the hosts got their first try, when Langi Leainu dived over in the corner.

New Zealand suffered a massive blow late in the half, with Broncos and NRLW finals MVP Kimiora Nati suffering what appeared to be a severe knee injury.

The Kiwi Ferns only had a 65 percent completion rate in the first half.

Down 12-4, the Ferns responded early in the second half, with two tries in three minutes from Annetta Nuuausala and Veainu, scoring her second as they took the lead for the first time.

Their two-point buffer didn't last though, as second-row forward Tazmin Gray scored the Roos' third.

Centre Maitua Feterika restored the lead for the Ferns to tie the match up at 18-18 heading into the final quarter.

Australia regained the lead once more with centre Kelly scoring her first, busting through some dismal Ferns defence.

Amber Kani scored for New Zealand to set up the thrilling finish, but they were unable to hold the Roos out, with Kelly scoring the matchwinner in the 74th minute.

In the end, the match came down to conversions, with New Zealand converting two of five, while Australia kicked three of their five.

It was the second game of a tripleheader between Australia and New Zealand in Auckland.

Earlier in the day, the Junior Kangaroos walked away with a 40-24 win over the Junior Kiwis. The final match was between the Kiwis and Kangaroos men.