Kangaroos Praise 'Outstanding' Ferguson
After a week in which Australia lost one metre-eating winger to a serious injury, Roosters back Blake Ferguson stepped up to fill the void in a performance which delighted his coach and teammates alike.
With Josh Mansour suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament at training last week, Ferguson became the natural option to hold down one of the vacant wing spots for the remainder of the tournament, and got straight down to business with a game-high 243 metres in the 14-8 victory over the Kiwis.
That was the feature point of a man-of-the-match performance, which also saw the 26-year-old make three line breaks and score the opening try of the game.
"Outstanding, outstanding [performance]," was coach Mal Meninga's initial assessment.
"I think he has been playing really well for us on the right wing, in all of the Test matches this year he has been very, very good."
His big moments weren't restricted to attacking territory either, with Ferguson tempering Shaun Johnson's kicking game with some accurate positional play and determined returns.
It was one play in particular in the second half which prevented what looked to be a certain repeat set for New Zealand, which stood out for Meninga post-match.
"[His game] was trademarked by when he made that run in our in-goal, I thought that was a really important moment for the team," Meninga said.
"If they put us into in-goal there then they are attacking our try-line and have us under the pump, I thought his run was exceptional."
Prop Aaron Woods, who ran for 146 metres himself at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, said Ferguson led the way for the entire backline on Sunday morning (AEDT).
Fullback Darius Boyd was the only member of Australia's back five to run for under 100 metres against the world No.1 Kiwis.
"Blake was outstanding and I thought our whole back five were amazing for us," Woods said.
"Sometimes when you looked New Zealand would put a kick in and then you would only have to run back 10 or 15 metres, because of how well the boys got back into their kick returns.
"It really does help us forwards, so let's hope they can keep doing that throughout the tournament."
Meanwhile Meninga said that he was now decided on most of his first-choice squad, with only a couple of positions still up for debate.
"I said to the players that we would pick close to our Test team [for this week], so obviously Cooper [Cronk] comes back into the football side and the majority of the players who played tonight will be there as well," Meninga said.
"Josh [Mansour's] injury has in a way sort of solved a problem on our wings.
"The right side, I think Justin O'Neil went very well tonight and is putting a bit of pressure on Josh Dugan, so we have got to make some decisions there.
"I think our left side is pretty settled, back row is pretty settled and then probably what we do off the bench will be the main decision to make."
This article first appeared on NRL.com