By John Davidson, 5/11/18
England have kept their winning run against New Zealand alive and wrapped up their three Test series with a hard-fought 20-14 victory in Liverpool.
After beating the Kiwis in Denver in June, and in the first Test in Hull, England have retained the Baskerville Shield in memorable fashion at Anfield.
Down 14-6 in the second half, they fought back with gusto and Tommy Makinson scored a hat-trick to clinch a famous result in the second Test.
They now head to Elland for the third Test with a whitewash on the cards.
England coach Wayne Bennett said: “It was not so great in the first half but we hung in and only gave up six points so we were still in the game without playing well.
“We had a bit of a re-focus on a couple of things and they were a different team in the second half. There is a lot of self-belief and commitment in the team.”
New Zealand Michael Maguire said: “It hurts to see a playing group which is putting in a lot of work to be continually better as a group. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result.
“The boys have had to learn some harsh lessons over the last two games what Test football is all about.
“At critical moments in games, that’s what makes Test match footy. The try before half time hurt us and in the second half we made seven errors and six of those were coming out of yardage. England were very clinical and completed high. Their errors were down on our line so that is the difference that makes Test match footy.”
England took the lead with a penalty goal in the fifth minute after Jesse Bromwich smashed Sam Tomkins after he passed the ball.
Jake Connor nailed his kick in front of the posts to make it 2-0.
But it didn’t last long as the Kiwis hit back quickly through Dallin Watene-Zelzniak.
The fullback sliced through some weak defence and then Shaun Johnson added the extras to put his side 6-2 in front.
Jordan Rapana almost scrambled over in the 11th minute. After a penalty had handed them excellent position, England’s defence just managed to stop him inches short of the line.
Wayne Bennett’s men were on notice but it was New Zealand winning the yardage battle, with Rapana threatening to strike in the same spot six minutes later.
The winger was held up in the in-goal area in a fantastic tackle from Makinson and Josh Hodgson, with the video referee ruling no try.
However, right before half-time England finally managed to trouble the Kiwis. The killer blow came with a floated pass from George Williams putting Makinson over in the right-hand corner.
Connor couldn’t convert from the sideline but Makinson’s vital score ensured it was tied at 6-6 heading into the interval.
It didn’t last long as the Kiwis grabbed the lead back just four minutes into the second half. Kodi Nikorima put Watene-Zelezniak through a huge hole on halfway and then the fullback found Ken Maumalo out wide for the try.
It went from bad to worse for England when replacement hooker Daryl Clark went off with a rib injury soon after and Johnson nailed a penalty to make it 14-6.
Tensions boiled over in the 53rd minute when James Fisher-Harris took out Tomkins after a kick. Scuffles broke out across the field and then England took advantage of the ensuing penalty.
A brilliant no-look offload from Connor set up Makinson for his second four-pointer and cut the deficit to just four points.
England seized the momentum and kept the pressure on, with only brave defence holding Tom Burgess up over the line.
But Bennett’s side would not be stopped and it was Connor who brushed past his opposite number to sensationally tie up the game. The centre couldn’t convert his own four-pointer, so it remained locked at 14-14 with 16 minutes left.
The Kiwis were fading and then lost Rapana with a wrist injury. It was left to Makinson to capitalise on the left flank with a great match-winning try.