'We weren't undercooked,' Meninga says after gripping victory over Kiwis

Australia's gripping 16-14 victory over New Zealand to ensure a berth in the Rugby League World Cup final showed that the Kangaroos were far from undercooked, coach Mal Meninga insisted Friday.

Meninga's team had enjoyed a smooth route to the last-four, racking up 240 points and conceding just 18 in their four matches before the showdown with the Kiwis in Leeds.

"We're not undercooked!" said Meninga after a true classic of a match that saw New Zealand leading 14-10 at half-time and the outcome going right down to the wire.

"It was a real Test match and we haven't had one for a number of years.

"In my experience it's one of the best Test matches I've been involved in. We had to be at our best tonight."

Meninga added: "We used our skill a lot better tonight, we created a lot of opportunities, they created a lot of opportunities. We scrambled, we had all the things you want to see in a Test match.

"This game was right up there, both sides were fully committed and handled it well.

"I'm just happy we got through it and are into the final. We're pretty healthy as well which is great. We'll go into next week's game fully fit."

Tries by Kiwi half-backs Jahrome Hughes and Dylan Brown bookended two from Australian wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Valentine Holmes in a top-quality first-half that saw Jordan Rapana convert both Kiwi tries and hit a penalty, while Nathan Cleary managed just one conversion.

A Cameron Murray piledriver and a second Cleary conversion were the sole scores in a nail-biting second period to ensure Australia made the November 19 final in Manchester -- the Kangaroos haven't missed one since 1954.

They will next weekend play the winners of the second semi-final between England and Samoa, to be held at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

"It was a great performance. we definitely earned it, we're looking forward to the final now," said Australia captain James Tedesco.

New Zealand coach Michael Maguire said the match was "a really good game that could have gone either way. There were a couple of moments in the game it could have gone either way".

"I'm definitely very proud of the boys. I feel for them, you look at your players and you want them to go again next week."

Maguire said the Kiwis were "closing the gap in a big way at this level", calling on more international matches against the likes of Tonga and Samoa.

"We only get one or two games like this a year," he said, adding that games against Pacific teams would help develop players.

"It's really important for the state of the international game."

Skipper Jesse Bromwich said the result was "really disappointing, we came over here with the intention of winning the tournament... It's pretty heart-breaking, it's very hard to process everything".

"We started really fast, discipline was really good... that first half was the perfect half for us," he said, adding that that was a perfect gameplan for whoever plays Australia next week.

"Ball control and discipline" cost Kiwis in second period, said Bromwich.

"We defended our tryline for I don't know how many sets of tackles... We were really close and we could have won it."