Meninga defends victorious Kangaroos after 'rugged' win over Kiwis | Photos

MAL Meninga has suggested Phil Gould's lack of international representation tainted his judgment after the former Origin coach called for an overhaul of the ageing Australian team on Friday night.

Meninga responded to Gould's suggestion the Kangaroos wouldn't win the World Cup with the crop of players that defeated New Zealand 16-0 at Hunter Stadium.

"That was a real Test match. That's what Test footy is. People who have never played it don't know what it is," Meninga said.

"It's rugged; it's physical; sometimes it's a dour event. The Kiwis kept coming up with really good decisions on their line. Phil hasn't played Test match footy although he's a great judge of the game.

"It disappoints me that someone of his ilk would say that. It's not too often in any footy game, especially a Test match that you hold a side to zero."

It was equally uninspiring as it was methodical from the Kangaroos.

Australia managed to restore regular order by ending a two-year drought against the Kiwis, but Meninga's first game as coach has left more questions than answers following the victory in Newcastle.

However skipper Cameron Smith defended his troops.

"Tell me a guy who doesn't deserve to be here tonight? We're all in great form," Smith said.

"The man of the match (Paul Gallen) was the oldest one out there."

The Kiwis came into the game as the No.1 team in the world having not lost to Australia in their previous three meetings. And despite the Kangaroos bucking the trend on Friday night, it was the severely depleted New Zealanders who gave a better account of themselves than the near full-strength Kangaroos outfit.

Australia's mediocre performance prompted Gould to raise concerns over the ageing team's ability to win next year's World Cup. "Australia have been professional but unimpressive," Gould said during Channel Nine's broadcast. "They can't possibly be thinking this is the side for the World Cup at the end of next year. Don't get me wrong they have all been excellent players, but there comes a time."

Semi Radradra's Test debut for Australia didn't go entirely to script, sent to the sin bin for a professional foul just six minutes into the contest after pushing Kevin Proctor off course while attempting to ground a Shaun Johnson grubber. But it did little to tip the scales against the Aussies who, despite struggling for fluency, rarely looked troubled against the second rate New Zealand side in front of a crowd of 27,724 at Hunter Stadium.

With Roger Tuivasa-Sheck nursing a season-ending knee injury, Kieran Foran taking time away from the game to sort through some personal problems and Issac Luke overlooked given his disappointing start to the season for the Warriors, Shaun Johnson was the only constant in a weakened spine.

To make matters worse captain Simon Mannering was unavailable, enforcer Ben Matulino was left out after an off-field misdemeanour and centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall was a late withdrawal.

On paper it looked like it would be a one-sided affair, with Gould of the opinion "the [New Zealand] team not playing would probably beat the team playing", with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Dean Whare among the long list of stars absent for the one-off Test.

And unfortunately for Stephen Kearney's men, no grit or commitment could make up for the lack of quality at their disposal. The decision to overlook Luke for makeshift hookers backfired, with the Kiwis rarely troubling the mobile Australian pack through the middle of the field.

But by no means were the Australian's fluent, looking disjointed in attack for the most of the match. However the Kiwis' inability to ask questions of the Kanagroos' defence ensured the home side didn't have to do too much with the ball to register their first victory since the corresponding game in 2014.

With Radradra in the bin, the visitors were unable to capitalise on the extra man and were quickly staring down the barrell of a 4-0 deficit when Darius Boyd crashed his way over.

Thurston extended the lead to six with a penalty goal, before Greg Inglis showed few signs of the knee injury that has plagued him the past 18 months to show up Tohu Harris and grab the Kangaroos' second try of the night for a 10-0 lead at the break.

A penalty against Sam Moa for a late tackle on Thurston, which Andrew Johns described as a "cheap shot", gifted the Kangaroos another two points, before Blake Ferguson put the result beyond doubt on the stroke of full-time.

New Zealand prop Adam Blair was put on report midway through the second half after attempting a 'chicken wing' on Broncos teammate Sam Thaiday.

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