New Zealand coach Michael Maguire has made the stunning revelation that star fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad played with a broken rib in his side's record-breaking win over Australia in the Pacific Championships final. The Kangaroos suffered the heaviest defeat in their 115-year history as Nicoll-Klokstad and co. ran riot during a 30-0 triumph at a half-empty stadium in Hamilton.
Nicoll-Klokstad was under pressure to keep his spot at fullback after a poor showing in last week's 36-18 loss to the Kangaroos, with calls for Joey Manu to replace him at No.1 for the Kiwis. However, the Warriors fullback answered his critics in style after running for a staggering 277 metres against Australia, with one try assist and six tackle busts to his name.
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New Zealand's coach revealed after the Test decider that his No.1 had been playing with a broken rib, having picked up the injury two weeks ago against Samoa. “I didn’t say it earlier but after the Samoa game he had a broken rib. He probably wasn’t meant to play," Maguire said in his post-match press conference. “It just goes to show what players will do when they’re playing for their country and playing for their brothers.
“It was a special performance. He wasn’t quite sure when he first did it, after the Samoa game whether or not he’d keep going. He didn’t want to leave.” Maguire said he was especially proud of the fullback's response after his form and place in the side had come under question.
“Last week he was challenged. He probably didn’t play the game he would have liked," Maguire admitted. "I think we all felt a little bit of that because we knew what sort of game they can play – obviously they found that and Charnze was one of the 17 that was able to get out and play their best game.”
'Heaps of errors' prove Australia's undoing
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga lamented his side's litany of errors after the game, with the Aussies missing a whopping 51 tackles compared to New Zealand's 33. The return of destructive trio Payne Haas, Liam Martin and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui failed to provide Australia with the intensity and go-forward to match the Kiwis, with no Aussie forward running for more than 100 metres.
Obviously (the result) will shock the rugby league world in the manner we lost and the scoreline, but we will come back with redemption at the end of next year," Meninga said after the match. "We made heaps of errors. That is a reflection of how New Zealand played. They were the better side and deserved their victory."
Rugby league greats Greg Alexander and Andrew Johns both described the performance by the Kangaroos as "embarrassing", with the biggest disappointment for New Zealand being the paltry crowd that turned up to watch their record-breaking romp in Hamilton. Despite the FMG Stadium having a capacity of around 25,000, official figures put the crowd attendance at just 13,269 for the Pacific decider.
Viewers hit out over 'disgraceful' crowd in Hamilton
Images from the broadcast showed rows of empty seats before kick-off, with the stands on either side of the ground barely half-full. Fox League commentator Andrew Voss said: “Do you know what, I think there’d be some New Zealanders regretting they haven’t turned up at the stadium in Waikato to see what could be an historic afternoon.” Viewers flocked to social media in disbelief after describing the crowd scenes in Hamilton as "embarrassing" and "disgraceful".
— Bemboka 🇦🇺 (@DanHunter111) November 4, 2023
— Adam Hawse (@AdamHawse) November 4, 2023
Why would this @Kangaroos game be on n Hamilton, the crowd looks incredibly poor should have been in Auckland or Suncorp.
— Dylan Nash (@DylanNash) November 4, 2023
Absolutely awful crowd for the Kangaroos v Kiwis Test at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand. Some questions will be being asked about the format of the #PacificChampionships. Perhaps a traditional three Test series would have been a better choice. #AUSvNZ pic.twitter.com/CxwOhUdm6S
— The Greenhouse (@TheGHRaiders) November 4, 2023
Why. Why is this final in Hamilton. The crowd would have been way bigger if it was hosted in Auckland #PacificChampionships
— Tiffany Salmond (@tiffany_salmond) November 4, 2023
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