CAGE FIGHT­ERS

Eng­land are in­tent on ‘rat­tling cages’ af­ter de­feat­ing New Zealand

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - Peter Smith AT KCOM STA­DIUM Email: pe­terj.smith@ypn.co.uk Twit­ter: @PeterSmithYEP

AC­CORD­ING to their coach Wayne Ben­nett, Eng­land’s play­ers are keen to “rattle some cages” on the Test stage.

There is a long way to go yet, but with the 2021 World Cup in mind, pos­i­tive signs are in ev­i­dence.

The 18-16 win over New Zealand at Hull’s KCOM Sta­dium was Eng­land’s third straight Test suc­cess since their nar­row de­feat to Aus­tralia in last year’s World Cup fi­nal.

The Ki­wis of­fered lit­tle re­sis­tance in Den­ver four months ago and the re­cent clash with France was not much more than an op­posed train­ing ses­sion, but Satur­day’s game was a dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion.

Un­der for­mer Wi­gan coach Michael Maguire, the Ki­wis de­feated Aus­tralia two weeks ago and are a far cry from from the side em­bar­rassed in the World Cup.

They led three times in the series opener and played the bet­ter rugby for much of the game, but Eng­land showed an en­cour­ag­ing re­solve in de­fence and re­sponded quickly to each set­back.

On at­tack they rarely put New Zealand un­der sus­tained pres­sure; their kick­ing game was in­ef­fec­tive and they should have made more of a hefty ad­van­tage in the penalty count.

But Eng­land did not con­cede a try in the sec­ond half and re­fused to panic when stand-off Shaun John­son at­tacked their line in the clos­ing mo­ments, in a si­t­u­a­tion rem­i­nis­cent of a shat­ter­ing de­feat at Wem­b­ley five years ago.

Over­all, it was an im­pres­sive vic­tory and Ben­nett praised his side as a “pretty spe­cial footy team”.

He told the me­dia af­ter­wards: “I think you should be re­ally proud of them, a great group of guys who work re­ally hard.

“It was a great sec­ond half, a great game ac­tu­ally and we could not have given any more. “We’ve not had a bad player. “Ev­ery­body turned up here to­day to play for Eng­land and they all gave their best.

“There’s about 10 guys that played in last year’s World Cup that aren’t here, for in­jury rea­sons mainly.

“We are build­ing some depth, which is re­ally im­por­tant.

“We are build­ing a lot of young men with de­sire, who re­ally want to rattle the cages of Aus­tralia and New Zealand.”

For­mer Brad­ford Bulls sec­ondrow for­ward El­liott White­head was voted Eng­land’s play­ers’ man of the match.

He de­fended strongly, trou­bled the Ki­wis with his off­loads and was in­volved in both Eng­land’s first-half tries.

The opener came in­side three min­utes, Sam Tomkins cross­ing af­ter Tommy Makin­son had claimed Ge­orge Williams’s kick and Jonny Lo­max also kept the ball alive.

Jake Con­nor, se­lected in the left-cen­tre, con­verted the try. He had a strong game on his home turf, par­tic­u­larly in de­fence.

Con­nor was the player fouled when Eng­land re­ceived a penalty try on the stroke of half-time.

New Zealand had forged into a 12-6 lead at that stage through tries by Esan Marsters and Dallin Watene-Zelez­niak, both of which John­son con­verted.

The sec­ond of those came af­ter a knock-on by Hud­der­s­field Giants winger Jer­maine McGil­l­vary.

He had few op­por­tu­ni­ties to add to his im­pres­sive strike rate at Test level, but car­ried the ball strongly away from Eng­land’s line and was un­lucky not to re­ceive a penalty when he hacked on from Tomkins’s kick and was blocked by Ken Mau­malo.

It looked like New Zealand would lead at the break, but Con­nor went over from White­head’s pass with 53 sec­onds left in the half.

Ref­eree Robert Hicks in­di­cated a try, but con­sulted video as­sis­tant Ben Thaler.

He de­cided Con­nor had not grounded the ball, but only be­cause Watene-Zelez­niak slid into him with a knee.

In­stead of be­ing from the touch­line, the con­ver­sion was taken in front of the posts and Con­nor’s goal lev­elled the scores.

Hicks was ear­lier over-ruled by Thaler when the ref­eree in­di­cated a try to Jor­dan Ra­pana only for his as­sis­tant to spot a knock-on by the same player.

John­son booted New Zealand back in front with penalty goals ei­ther side of an equal­is­ing kick from Con­nor and at 16-14 the tourists looked poised to take con­trol.

How­ever, Eng­land stuck out of the blue with a try wor­thy of win­ning any Test, Oliver Gil­dart skip­ping past Watene-Zelez­niak from an ex­cel­lent off­load by John Bate­man with 13 min­utes re­main­ing.

“It was im­por­tant for both teams to play well to show it’s a full-on Test series,” Ben­nett re­flected.

“It’s the best of three games and next week will be tougher than it was to­day be­cause New Zealand will want to win, they re­alise the im­por­tance of it.

“It is go­ing to be im­por­tant for us to con­tinue what we’ve done and not go into the third game with a one-one score.”

PIC­TURES: SI­MON WILKINSON/SWPIX.COM

UN­DER PRES­SURE: Eng­land’s Tommy Makin­son is tack­led by New Zealand’s Kevin Proc­tor, but the hosts emerged win­ners at the KCOM Sta­dium. Inset, Eng­land cel­e­brate Oliver Gil­dart’s match-win­ning try.

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