A grey and cold afternoon on Humberside welcomed the sides to the pitch for the first test between England and New Zealand. The kiwis were brimming with confidence after there thrilling victory over Australia recently.
The hosts grabbed the perfect start George Williams high kick was taken brilliantly by Tommy Mackinson on a last tackle play. The ball was kept alive with Sam Tomkins diving over for the opening try. Jake Connor playing on his home ground added the conversion 6-0.
Esan Masters finished off a wonderful move from the kiwis, Shaun Johnson levelled the scores with the conversion.
Johnson’s high kick is taken by Mackinson, the England winger offloads a metre or so from his line to avoid being trapped in goal. The ball goes to ground with New Zealand touching down. Referee Robert Hicks calls on the video referee. On field decision is a try. Ben Thaler finds a kiwi knock on much to England’s relief and no try is the decision.
The visitors continue to cause a threat with there huge pack and the wizardry of Johnson keeping England on there toes.
Jermaine Mcgilvary’s mistake at the play the ball deep in his own half comes at a cost. From a set scrum young kiwi fullback and captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak scorches through to touch down. Pace and speed of thought as New Zealand show there class. Johnson again converting 6-12.
In the final minute of the first half Jake Connor crashes over in the corner. Somehow Zelezniak and Johnson manage to hold him up. The video referee is called on and awards a penalty try after Connor is fouled in the act of scoring.
The conversion is tagged on from in front of the posts to send the teams in level at half time 12-12.
The inspirational work horse that is Elliot Whitehead was again in terrific form. A real star for The Canberra Raiders in Australia and corner stone of the England pack. The first points of the second half went the way of the Kiwis. Shaun Johnson converting a penalty in the 51st minute. 12-14.
Moments later Jake Connor levelled the scores once again with a penalty goal.
Just past the hour mark England are caught offside after a frantic passage of play. Johnson shows the hosts defence the respect it deserves by kicking for goal again. 14-16.
When the game needed some magic up stepped debutant Oliver Gildart to provide it. Breaking away to skirt past kiwi fullback Zelezniak. John Batemans off load to his Wigan team mate Gildart a real game changer.
After being under pressure England now had a renewed confidence and urgency with a two point advantage going in to the final ten minutes of an enthralling Test Match.
Wigan pair Sam Tomkins and George Williams playing in the halves for England managed the game superbly well in the closing stages. The Kiwis, masters of the offload game continued to play there exciting brand of expansive Rugby League leaving the crowd nervously counting the seconds away. Shaun Johnson’s last gasp kick through is diffused and the hooter sounds.
A fantastic match with England going one nil up in the three match series. Elliot Whitehead was named man of the match.
The Second Test will be at Anfield next weekend.
England 18 New Zealand 16