Rugby League: Kangaroos wary of Tongan threat after Kiwis defeat

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga believes Mate Ma'a Tonga will be fancying their chances of knocking over Australia after the world champions' shock 26-24 loss to New Zealand on Saturday.

Australia struggled during periods of the match but somehow managed to only lose by two points to the Kiwis in Auckland.

It was their first loss in 14 games dating back to 2015, when New Zealand were victorious in the Anzac test that year.

The Roos can't dwell on the defeat for long though, as they face another tough match next week against Tonga.

A sell-out crowd of 25,000 is expected at Mt Smart Stadium for the highly-anticipated test.

Meninga said he wouldn't be making any significant changes to his squad that lost to the Kiwis for the Tonga game.

"I hate losing, we all do," Meninga said. 

"Obviously the papers tomorrow and the media tomorrow will be talking about the Kangaroos are vulnerable in our transition, I guess you'd call it.

"We've got a bit of work to do. I can assure you we'll be ready for next week. We'll be ready for it physically and mentally ... I think they think we're beatable."

Even though the Kangaroos lost, Meninga was still proud of his team for giving themselves a chance late in the fixture.

Trailing 26-12 heading into the final 10 minutes, the Kangaroos scored two late tries to set up a thrilling finish, but they couldn't find a match-winner.

Kangaroos fullback James Tedesco.
Kangaroos fullback James Tedesco. Photo credit: Photosport

Meninga said a disappointing completion rate of 75 percent, compared to New Zealand's 89 percent, along with 42 percent possession was his side's downfall.

"I can't fault the effort and attitude and desire the players had tonight. We just need to execute better. Experience tells me you've got to keep on sticking to the plan.

"When that [first] error came around that 12-minute mark we didn't touch the ball for another 10 to 12 minutes. They had all the momentum. It was a miracle we were in front at half-time."

It was the first test for Australia since Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk stood down from representative football and the retirement of Billy Slater and Johnathan Thurston.

In total, eight members of the Kangaroos team which won last year's World Cup were playing in Auckland. But that wasn't an excuse for captain Boyd Cordner, who was forced to defend the performance of hooker Damien Cook.

Cook was pulled midway through the second half having ran for just 38m, but he had made over 40 tackles.

"I don't think you can replace a bloke like Cameron Smith, just his experience and everyone knows the player he is, he's one of the best in the game," Cordner said.

"In saying that we picked a side that's in some really good form this year.

"Damien Cook has been one of the best players in the NRL this year. I thought he played really good. He did a lot of tackles and a lot of cleaning up for us and was good out of hooker when he had his opportunities.

"But at the same time he doesn't have that experience of Cameron Smith. But he did his job for the Kangaroos."


Join us at 7:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Ma'a Mate Tonga vs Australian Kangaroos test at Mt Smart Stadium.