By John Davidson, Date: 28/10/18
Oliver Gildart scored a sensational match winning try as England overcame New Zealand in the opening Test of this autumn’s three-match series.
The 22-year-old tcentre had initially been included in the second-tier England Knights squad for their two-match tour against the Kumuls.
But he was elevated to the senior squad after Sam Burgess pulled out through injury and went on to help Wigan to the Super League title against Warrington at Old Trafford.
Against the Kiwis, he scored a glorious match winning try with just 13 minutes remaining.
Collecting a deft pass from John Bateman inside the right channel, Gildart showed impressive pace and strength to back himself on a searing 50-metre run which took him past New Zealand full-back Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and second-rower Isaac Liu en-route to the line.
Coach Wayne Bennett, who led England to the World Cup final last December, said: “They’re a great group of guys and we didn’t have a bad player today. England should be really proud.”
Bennett was missing 10 players who featured in last year’s World Cup final defeat to Australia, eight through injury and two more due to retirement.
As early as the 15th minute, captain Sean O’Loughlin was forced off with a calf problem and did not return.
Yet Bennett’s side went fought gamely throughout against a Kiwis side who had beaten world champions Australia a fortnight earlier and were rewarded through Gildart’s sensational 67th-minute score.
Sam Tomkins scampered over the line to put England in front before New Zealand responded with a well-worked score from centre Esan Marsters.
They edged in front when Dallin Wateve-Zelezniak raced clear to score in the left corner before Jake Connor was denied a certain try by the New Zealand captain on the stroke of half-time.
England were awarded a penalty try and, after a tight second half, Gildart’s matchwinning moment finally came.
He said: “To score the winning try was unbelievable. I just backed myself, saw a bit of space and luckily got over.”
England (12) 18
Tries: Tomkins, Connor, Gildart Goals: Connor 3
New Zealand (12) 16
Tries: Marsters, Watene-Zalezniak Goals: Johnson 4