Scotland v New Zealand | Five Key Points
Scotland shocks the rugby league world, Brough cements his legacy, Kiwis' final fate in Australian hands and another enigmatic performance from Shaun Johnson.
Scotland shocks rugby league world
The fourth nation in the Four Nations tournament had never taken a point away from a clash in the history of the concept but Scotland shocked the rugby league world to cement their place as a growing force in the international game.
The 18-all draw that has opened the door for England to upset the Kangaroos and earn a place in the final next week was the greatest performance in Scotland's short rugby league Test history but one that will provide the foundation for further progression.
Bolstered by the involvement of NRL players, Scotland have shown throughout the Four Nations that they are emerging as a genuine force in international rugby league and came within eight minutes of causing the greatest upset in Four Nations history.
Quarter-finalists in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, Scotland pushed England for 60 minutes before fading late last week but to back it up against the Kiwis in awful conditions at Workington on Saturday proved they are much more than nuisance value.
Lachlan Coote's inclusion has given Danny Brough the foil he needs on last-tackle options and the continued emergence of players such as prop Adam Walker, wingers Matty Russell and Lewis Tierney and back-rowers Ben Kavanagh and Dale Ferguson gives the Bravehearts the core of a playing group that can kick on even further in next year's World Cup.
Running into a howling gale in the first 40 minutes the Scots dominated territory and possession but failed to put the polish on the end of their sets to build sustained pressure on New Zealand.
When David Fusitu'a crossed in the 24th minute the expectation was that the Scots would soon fold but they hit back within three minutes through Tierney to trail by just two points at half-time.
The Kiwis didn't score their second try until the 55th minute but the Scots refused to go away, Ben Hellewell's try enabling Danny Brough to level the score before giving his side the lead with a penalty goal 11 minutes from full-time.
Even two quick tries to the Kiwis couldn't kill them off and Brough's conversion of Euan Aitken's 79th minute try gave them a point that was well and truly earned.
Brough cements legacy in Scottish rugby league
It was fitting that on the night he joined Andrew Henderson as Scotland's most capped player that it was Danny Brough who slotted the conversion in the final minute to level the scores and earn his side a draw.
An English representative in an International Origin match in 2012, Brough fell out of favour with English selectors and has since proved in Tests for Scotland that he is one of the finest halves in the game today.
Needing pain relief before the game and again at half-time with an ankle injury and playing in awful conditions he piloted his team around the park superbly and his daring left foot cross-field kick for Tierney gave his side the momentum they needed to score their second try and stay in the game.
Judged Super League's best in 2013, Brough has carried Scotland on his shoulders the past three years and the only way his night could have been better against the Kiwis would have been a 60-metre field goal as the full-time siren sounded.
Kiwis' Four Nations final fate in Australian hands
Coming into the clash with Scotland the Kiwis' points differential was 30 points worse than that of England and their 18-all draw with the Bravehearts has left the door ajar for the English to win their way through to the Four Nations Final at Anfield next week.
The equation now is as simple as it can be with an English win against Australia guaranteeing their path into the final for what would be a rematch with the Kangaroos but coach David Kidwell looks to have a concern with Thomas Leuluai leaving the game late with what appeared to be a broken jaw.
New Zealand blooded four debutants and each had nice touches but they were lucky to escape with a point and with their Four Nations final hopes still alive.
Another enigmatic performance from Johnson
Watching Shaun Johnson play remains a largely perplexing experience, and it all comes back to what we expect of him.
We marvel at his brilliance yet deride his impetuousness; we want him to do the impossible yet criticise when he can't complete those skills that we expect from the game's leading playmakers in pressure situations.
As the Scots showed courage not befitting their place in rugby league's international pecking order Johnson created the Kiwis' sole first-half try for David Fusitu'a but there were ill-timed tap-ons that didn't go to hand and kicks that either went dead in-goal, were easily picked off by Scotland fullback Lachlan Coote or into touch that allowed the Scots to catch their breath.
In the first set of the second half Brough did something that Johnson couldn't do in the first 40 minutes by kicking a 40/20 and had a far better handle on the game situation and the plays that were required.
Named man of the match, Johnson again had a hand in Fusitu'a's second try, came up with the pass for the go-ahead try, sparked the movement for Gerard Beale's second in quick succession and his kicking game actually improved running into the wind but there were again issues with execution that we don't expect from someone of his class.
Rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns said in Channel Nine's coverage that there is a growing feeling Johnson is better suited to five-eighth; perhaps we won't see the best of Johnson until he gets some direction of his own.
Lachlan Coote among rugby league elite
If there was any doubt that Lachlan Coote is among the elite fullbacks in world rugby league he put them to bed not only against the Kiwis but throughout the Four Nations tournament.
His addition to the Cowboys helped transform perennial contenders into premiers and although he appears a long way down the list of New South Wales fullbacks his first foray into international rugby league was an unqualified success.
With the Kiwis enjoying a big breeze at their backs in the first half Coote's positional play and handling on kicks was faultless and he laid on Scotland's first try for Tierney with a deft left-foot kick of his own.
He came up with an important stop on a rampant David Fusitu'a and despite a mis-directed kick early in the second half with Scotland on the attack was arguably the best player on the park for both sides.
He spotted that New Zealand were short on the left to release Tierney ahead of Ben Hellewell's 67th minute try and time and again cleaned up kicks by Shaun Johnson on his own goal-line. He came up with an unfortunate miss on Greg Eastwood that led to New Zealand's match-winning try but made up for it with the pass for Euan Aitken's try a minute from full-time.
This article first appeared on NRL.com