The Kangaroos will enter the Pacific Nations Championships final heavy favourites after a rousing 36-18 win over New Zealand, which featured an unlikely double from prop Lindsay Collins.
The Australians scored six tries at AAMI Park in a high-quality taster for the tournament final in Hamilton next Saturday which will again feature the trans-Tasman rivals.
After a tense stand-off with the Kiwis marching to within centimetres of the Kangaroos following the haka on Saturday, the Australians got off to a flying start and were never headed.
Leading 18-12 at halftime, the Kangaroos completed 81 per cent of their sets for the match while the Kiwis weren’t far behind at 78 per cent.
But the home side had attacking options across the park with five-eighth Cameron Munster, who had battled the flu throughout the week, orchestrating the impressive performance.
“It was an excellent performance and the things we wanted to get through we did,” said Australia coach Mal Meninga, who added the team were “fun to coach”.
“Our second half was amazing – our completion rate was great and we controlled field position and we’ve got some quality players in our footy team who can take advantage of that.
“Things are working well for us but we put the effort in.”
Coming off the bench Collins scored with his first touch of the ball in the 21st minute and secured his first-ever career double soon after thanks to a quick play-the-ball by Harry Grant, who fired a pass to the Sydney Roosters prop.
Valentine Holmes, who was a controversial selection after an off-season white powder incident, didn’t skip a beat in his first game in almost three months due to two suspensions.
He opened the scoring in the eighth minute off a James Tedesco grubber and added 12 points with his boot, kicking five from six conversions and a penalty goal.
The Kiwis answered through second-rower Briton Nikora and then had the final say of the half when winger Ronaldo Mulitalo out-leapt his rivals to take a Jahrome Hughes bomb.
The world champions extended the lead 10 minutes into the second half when Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards, lining up on the wing, was on the spot after Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow got around opposite centre Joseph Manu.
Holmes then added a penalty strike to push the lead out to 26-12.
Replacement NZ hooker Fa’amanu Brown made it temporarily interesting when he burrowed over the line from dummy-half in the 69th minute.
But Ben Hunt matched Brown’s effort with three minutes remaining and Cameron Murray then capped the night, racing over for Australia’s sixth try, which was also his sixth in his six Test matches to equal the record of legendary Ron Coote.
The Kangaroos have now won eight of their past nine against the Kiwis, who last tasted victory in Australia in 2015.
New Zealand coach Michael Maguire said that despite the loss there was a lot to like about his team.
“There was a lot of good about it and we’ll take a fair bit out of what we need to do for next week,” he said.
“We need to tidy up as we just put a lot of pressure on ourselves.
“It was a pretty even game at half time but in the second half we weren’t were we needed to be.”