By John Davidson in Wigan, Date: 15/11/15
England has wrapped up a 2-1 series victory over New Zealand with a dramatic 20-16 victory at a rain-soaked DW Stadium.
In front of a packed Wigan crowd, England held on to the Baskerville Shield with a see-sawing win, having to see off a late rally from the Kiwis.
Canberra Raiders-bound forward Elliot Whitehead crossed for two tries and captain Sean O’Loughlin got the third and final English score to give them a 14-point lead with just eight minutes left.
But New Zealand refused to give up. First Jason Nightingale set up Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the corner with a sensational no-look pass.
Then with two minutes left Jordan Kahu slid in off a Kodi Nikorima kick. Isaac Luke missed the conversion and the Kiwis trailed by four points with a minute on the clock.
But the number one ranked team in the world couldn’t break through again for another try and England just hung on to get the result. It’s the first series win for the English in eight long years.
New Zealand started the game poorly, making a mistake from the kick off and letting the ball bounce, and were forced into a dropout. Soon after England took a two-point lead through a Gareth Widdop penalty kick.
England had the early running, dominating possession and field position. The Kiwis managed to keep them out until the 26th minute, when a Matty Smith grubber rebounded into the path of Elliot Whitehead scored.
England had a vital 8-0 buffer.
But this woke New Zealand up and they started to create some space with the ball in hand and their offloading style. Nightingale dived over in the corner with an acrobatic effort just before half-time to make the score 8-6 at the break.
In the second half momentum seem to shift to the Kiwis, however, England managed to keep them out with some heroic defence.
Whitehead’s second try and the O’Loughlin four-pointer under the sticks gave them an what looked like an unassailable lead.
But New Zealand lifted and made it a frantic and entertaining end to the Test.
Rookie Jermiane McGillvary was impressive on debut while Smith provided organisation and a solid kicking game for England.
Tuivasa-Sheck was a constant menace but could not pull the winning try out of his hat in the final seconds.
English five-eighth Gareth Widdop said England managed to dig in desperately.
“New Zealand are number one in the world for a reason but we managed to get the win,” he said.
“It has been a long time for a series win but we have put in hard work over the last few years and it has come off. Both teams played great but we held on.”
Kiwi co-captain Adam Blair said discipline was the difference in the end.
“The English boys had an outstanding series,” he said.
“It was a tough series but overall we’ve dug deep and it went down to the wire tonight but we came up short.”
England’s series wins sets up the Four Nations, which will be held in the UK nicely. England will be out to continue its development on the international stage while Australia will be keen to reassert its dominance.
England: (8), 20 Tries: Whitehead 2, O’Loughlin, Goals: Widdop 4
New Zealand: (6) 14, Tries: Nightingale, Tuivasa-Sheck, Kahu, Goals: Luke