As the first half of the season concludes, England coach Wayne Bennett has taken the crop of English rugby league talent to Denver, USA, for the first of four international tests against New Zealand on Saturday.
The fixture always promises to be an entertaining affair for neutral fans of rugby league. Here’s a round-up of the most memorable games from the English and Kiwi side’s 16 previous meetings.
5: England 18-16 New Zealand (11th January 1908)
England’s first encounter with the Kiwis occurred in Central Park, Wigan, where 12,000 people attended, even though the pitch was frozen. Instead, the pitch was layered with straw so the match could still go ahead!
The conditions favoured an open game and by half time the score was 11-all. In the end however, England just squeezed past their opponents and were victorious by a slender two-point margin.
4: England v New Zealand (1975 World Cup)
The seventh edition of the World Cup tournament (Known as the World Series) brought together the two sides for the first time in decades.
The format differed radically from that employed in previous competitions; no one country hosted the matches, which were spread out in a ‘world series’ hosted by each of the five participating nations over a period of just over eight months.
England met New Zealand on the first occasion at Carlaw Park in Auckland, where the tie concluded at 17-17, a decent result for the English, who bouncedunce back from their defeat to Wales in the round before.
The second and final meeting in the World Series was at the Odsal Stadium in Bradford where England went on to win their third consecutive win in the tournament by defeating the Kiwis 27-12 in front of 6,000 spectators.
New Zealand’s Ian Schubert, who was playing under the Eastern Suberbs was the team’s star player after scoring a hat-trick.
3. New Zealand 49-6 England (2000 World Cup)
England’s first defeat to the Kiwis came in the first World Cup of the new millennium under current Bradford Bulls coach John Kear and the leadership of former Wigan player Andy Farrell.
After a tough defeat to Australia in the group stages, England exceeded the group stages comfortably with wins over Russia, Fiji and Ireland.
On the other hand, New Zealand went on to finish top of the group stage undefeated with Wales, Lebanon and the Cook Islands and comfortably dispatched France to set up a meeting with England.
The two-sides met in the semi-finals at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton and it was New Zealand that booked their place in the final against Australia. This was the England rugby league team’s biggest ever loss.
By winning this match, New Zealand had again equalled their record for consecutive victories with five, as well as starting a trend of heartbreaking defeats for England at the hands of the New Zealanders.
2. England 18-20 New Zealand (2013 World Cup)
That series of heartbreaks continued into the 2013 World Cup, where England were the hosts and the Kiwis came into the tournament as the top-rankied side.
England had lost again to Australia in the group stages and finished as runners up, with New Zealand topping their group undefeated.
The semi-final match-up was held at Wembley Stadium in London and was one of the most highly spectated fixtures in Rugby League. New Zealand started as favourites but failed to assert their early dominance and England took an 8-0 lead through Sean O’Loughlin and kicks from Kevin Sinfield, but the Kiwis levelled through Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s try and goals from Shaun Johnson.
By the half-time whistle New Zealand leaded 16-10 over England, and the Kiwis were quick out of the blocks in the second half, as Ryan Hall’s missed-interception opportunity allowed Tuivasa-Sheck to score his second try of the game.
England started to gather momentum and a fresh set of six was enough to close the gap. Sinfield found Leeds Rhinos team mate Watkins who went over, with Sinfield unable to level the scores with his conversion attempt.
After an extended period of possession, England were rewarded with another try, as man of the match Sam Burgess powered over the line to restore the home side’s lead with 15 minutes left on the clock.
New Zealand were just seconds away from losing their world cup crown when a high tackle gave then a good attacking platform and the mercurial Johnson made the most of it, jinking through the England defence, before converting his own try to see them through to the final.
However, it was heartbreak for New Zealand, who went on to lose in the World Cup final to Australia (2-34) at Old Trafford in Manchester.
1. New Zealand 16-14 England (2014 Four Nations)
The Otago Stadium in Dunedin was host to arguably one of the most memorable meetings between the two sides as England strived to reach the Four Nations final for the first time in the club’s history.
New Zealand half-back Shaun Johnson was again the scourge of England as he masterminded a display that produced tries for wingers Jason Nightngale and Manu Vatuvei, as well as kicking two conversions.
England, who gave a debut to then-Catalans Dragons second rower Elliott Whitehead, also scored three tries through their wingers, two of them from the prolific Ryan Hall. However, Gareth Widdop saw his first two conversion attempts rebound off the uprights, summing up a day of frustration for the English.
Overall, England couldn’t do enough and were unable to overturn a 10-point points swing needed to book their place in the final.
Who will win on Saturday?
There have been 16 meetings between the two sides that have spanned over a century, New Zealand have won nine where as England have won six meaning the two sides have drawn just once.
They will meet at the Mile High Stadium in Denver for the first International test in America, and if past meetings between the two sides are anything to go by, we’re in for a cracker!
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