FUMING New Zealand prop Sam Moa admits he and the rest of the side’s experienced campaigners owe their rookies a huge apology ahead of the second Test against England.
The Kiwis may be ranked the No 1 team in the world and reigning Four Nations champions yet they looked anything but when falling 26-12 in Sunday’s opener at Hull’s KC Stadium.
That means the entire three-match series is already on the line for them as they head to London’s Olympic Stadium on Saturday and Moa, the Sydney Roosters forward who spent four years with Hull FC, is adamant who is to blame.
He had helped put the tourists 10-0 up by scoring a try early on at his old stomping ground but was left powerless as England – managed by Steve McNamara, one of Moa’s assistant coaches at Roosters – stormed back impressively.
“It was a disappointing result for us and a big wake-up call,” said the 29-year-old, who left East Yorkshire at the end of 2012.
“The way we fell away at the end of the first half and start of the second we just couldn’t get the momentum back.
“Full credit to England – they played extremely well and they have a good coach who I have a lot of time for my time with him at the Roosters.
“But we know we need to be better, especially myself and the senior players; we had a couple of inexperienced guys out there and we didn’t make their debuts ones to remember.”
Jordan Kahu, Tuimoala Lolohea, Kodi Nikorima and Sio Siua Taukeiaho all made their first Test appearances for the under-strength Kiwis, having pulled on the famous jersey against Leeds Rhinos the week before and Moa, the hard-running front-row, feels they were let down.
“People and the media might be a bit harsh on the young guys’ debuts but we take that to heart as senior players and, as the more experienced players in the team, we feel like it’s our job to help lay the platform for them and show them the way,” he said.
“We did that for the first 20 or 30 minutes but when the game was in the balance and you look for your best and more experienced players we weren’t there.
“It’s been a big lesson for us and we now have to win the next game. We will have to prepare and play well for that in London.”
New Zealand must adapt and ready themselves to douse the fire created by England’s mountainous pack, many of whom – James Graham, Tom Burgess and Mike Cooper plus hooker Josh Hodgson – they already know well given they operate with Australian NRL clubs.
Moa admitted: “We knew they were going to be strong in the middle when they had that sort of strength and experience.
“I thought (James) Roby was terrific – he controlled the game really well – and when you’ve got someone as big as Tom Burgess coming off the bench you know what’s coming.
“I thought (props) Chris Hill and James Graham really laid the platform well for them, too, but, hopefully, we can do that in return this weekend.”
Moa conceded it was a bitter-sweet experience returning to the club that had helped him resurrect his faltering career when he arrived from Cronulla Sharks in 2009.
He became a cult figure in the KC Stadium stands as part of Hull’s ‘Tongan Mafia’ alongside similarly explosive forwards in the shape of Willie Manu and Ephalame Lauaki.
Try-scoring was never his forte, however, managing just seven in 77 games during his four seasons at the Airlie Birds so he was as surprised as anyone when crossing against England, bursting onto Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s short ball from close range.
“I couldn’t believe I got over really,” admitted Moa, who won the 2013 NRL Grand Final with Roosters during his first year back in Australia.
“It all went so fast and I didn’t have time to celebrate as the guys were all on me straight away.
“I just had to get the ball down but it would have been better if we’d have won the game so that try holds no relevance for me really.
“A couple of the (FC) boys came to the match – Danny Houghton, who I have a lot of time for, and Danny Washbrook, who has just come back to Hull.
“I have some really good friends there so it was good to see them but, unfortunately, it wasn’t the right result for us and we’ll be looking to put that right in this second Test.”
Back-row forward Brett Ferres, man-of-the-match in the first Test, believes that England, too, will improve throughout the series as new half-back pair George Williams and Gareth Widdop get more game time together.
“It was a fantastic milestone for us to get that first win so now we’ve got something to build on,” said Ferres.
“We’re still a new group aren’t we? We’ve a new half-back and a few young boys who have only just got their second caps so it’s looking great for us for the future.”
“But it’s still early in the tournament and we’ll put that away now and build for this week.”
Huddersfield forward Ferres scored two of England’s four tries, following up his hat-trick against France a week earlier, and is content with the role earmarked by McNamara for him as a substitute.
Salford have completed the signing of Castleford’s Australian winger Justin Carney on a year-long loan deal.
The block-busting Carney has scored 63 tries in 62 appearances for the Tigers, despite serving five separate suspensions for foul play in his three seasons, and only last year signed a new five-year deal.
But the former Sydney Roosters and Canberra player missed the Tigers’ last three matches of the 2015 Super League season after being stood down pending the outcome of an internal investigation. He was subsequently re-instated but his future with the West Yorkshire club remained tenuous and he went close to joining Hull before completing his move to the Red Devils.
Carney was in the Castleford team that lost to Leeds in the 2014 Challenge Cup final at Wembley and recently expressed an interest in playing for England, for whom he qualifies under the residency rule.
He becomes the Red Devils’ seventh signing for 2016, including fellow countrymen Robert Lui and Ben Murdoch-Masila, and his capture appears to signal the imminent departure of former Leeds winger Ben Jones-Bishop.