In the second round of the three-match test series, the match was played under the floodlights of Anfield where England once again got the win after coming from behind against a strong New Zealand side.
England got the first-half underway and took two points in the first few minutes when the Kiwis conceded a penalty from a late tackle on Sam Tomkins, with the penalty conversion taken by Jake Connor.
New Zealand immediately responded with the first try of the game which resulted from a series of slick passing as they saunter towards the England try line, before Shaun Johnson flicked it left for a charging Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to score in the corner.
After that, the first-half settled to a game of arm-wrestle as both sides showed some beautiful rugby. However, it looked like there would be no more scoring till half-time.
But with just two minutes left England levelled the scores through a try to Tommy Makinson. Chris Hill was grounded within fifteen metres of the Kiwis line to the right of the posts. England got the ball moving on the left-hand side through Josh Hodgson to George Williams, who flicked a wonderful long pass out to Makinson and the St Helens man stormed into the corner.
It was a fantastic finish from a well-worked attacking set-piece from the hosts, but Connor couldn’t get the extra two points.
The Kiwis started the second half with their second try of the game as they regained their lead over England. It all started from a scrum ten metres from their own line with the Kiwis working it well to the half-way line, before releasing Watene-Zelezniak where full-back broke free from a number of scrambling white shirts, stepped left and teed up Ken Maumalo nicely to touch down in the corner.
Minutes later New Zealand extended their lead over England to eight points after the white shirts conceded a penalty close to their own try-line, Shaun Johnson converted.
With just over 20 minutes remaining Makinson helped England reduced the deficit after his second. It was served up on a platter by Connor, as the Hull man executed a wonderful off-load to find Makinson in the corner. Connor couldn’t get the extra two points.
England then levelled the scores for the second time in the match after Jordan Rapana lost the ball on half-way. Hodgson quickly picked it up from dummy half to feed Elliott Whitehead, who found Connor with the offload wide on the left and he squeezed over the try line from close range. Connor again missing the conversion to deny England the lead.
Five minutes remaining and England’s very own Makinson scored after an unbelievable break, darting inside off his wing, picking a route to the line and leaving the New Zealand defence in his wake. Makinson the hat-trick hero and test-series winner. Tomkins took over kicking duty to get the extra points.
In the final stages Whitehead stole the ball after a wonderful tackle and sealed the win and the test series for England.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
England sealed the test series
If the last five minutes hadn’t happened it would’ve looked like an exciting decider at Elland Road next weekend, but England got the job done again.
The game was similar to last weekend’s fixture at the KCOM Stadium, both sides put on a remarkable display of rugby league.
It was the same today where the match swayed both ways, and it was hard to tell who was going to come out as winners.
Even though England sealed the test series ahead of the third match next weekend, you can be sure that New Zealand will look to bounce back and prevent a series whitewash.
Man of the Match – Tommy Makinson (England – St Helens)
The St Helens winger stole the show today with the help of a very strong England team. Not to mention Hull FC’s Jake Connor who scored and assisted today but just couldn’t succeed on kicking duties.
Tries: Makinson (38′, 57′, 74′), Connor (64′)
Goals: Connor (1/4), Tomkins (1/1)
Drop Goals: n/a
New Zealand 14
Tries: Watene-Zelezniak (9’), Maumalo (45′)
Goals: Johnson (3/3)
Drop Goals: n/a
England: Lomax, Makinson, Connor, Gildart, McGillvary, Williams, Tomkins, T Burgess, Hodgson, Graham, Bateman, Whitehead, Thompson. Interchanges: Milner, Hill, G Burgess, Clark.
New Zealand: Watane-Zelezniak, Maumalo, Marsters, Manu, Rapana, Johnson, Nikorima, J Bromwich, Smith, Waerea-Hargreaves, Proctor, Liu, Blair. Interchanges: K Bromwich, Ah Mau, Taupau, Fisher-Harris.
Referee: Gerard Sutton