However the Kiwis also had a new-look team, with Watene-Zelezniak making his debut as captain and Manu and Smith joining the new players blooded in June's Denver Test against England.
Despite the visitors scoring with minutes to go in the match, it wasn't enough, the Kiwis winning overall by two points, much to the joy of newly appointed captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak who received a haka tautoko from his family in the crowd.
It was a different story after the interval as New Zealand's pressure earned greater reward.
"I love the attitude; I loved the way they kept hanging in; I loved the way we almost won the footy game", Meninga said.
"The boys have spoken about what kind of team they want to be so the fans do come along and come on the ride with us".
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I spoke today with Australian PM @ScottMorrisonMP . "We will continue to strengthen ties between IL and AU!", he said. If acted upon, the move would follow a recent policy shift by the USA that has drawn criticism internationally.
"We're at a stage in our transition where we have a bit of work to do".
The Kiwis on the other hand have been marred by a string of bad performances and questions are being posed about their culture after Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor's illicit drugs scandal following last year's Anzac Test in Canberra.
"We're building. Tonight's the foundation that we've built and we've just got to keep going and going".
Australia led 12-8 at half-time, but New Zealand started the second half like a rocket.
Holmes's 12th try in his last four Test appearances struck fear into the hearts of New Zealand fans that the new look Kangaroos would be just as dominant as previous versions, after rookie centre Latrell Mitchell drew Jordan Rapana to create an overlap for the Cronulla star over in the third minute.
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Valentine Holmes and Lattrell Mitchell were a unsafe attacking combination down the left-hand side and they created Australia's first try, to Holmes, after only two minutes.
Australia somehow led at the break, despite the home side enjoying 65 per cent of possession and completing 18 of their 21 sets.
Manu proved his superstar qualities when he produced a powerful fend to run over Mitchell and give the Kiwis an 8-6 lead in the 35th minute.
The Kangaroos produced something out of nothing when Daly Cherry-Evans, Tom Trbojevic and Dane Gagai combined on the stroke of halftime to make it 10-8, however the Kiwis powered home in the second half.
Some streets around Mt Smart Stadium are lined with Tongan flags and houses decked out in red and white.
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