Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - Gareth El­lis ■ Email: ■ Twit­ter: @YPS­port

Eng­land and New Zealand pass screen test in Den­ver ahead of World Cup

WHAT A fine Test match we saw in Den­ver.

Eng­land v New Zealand looked a great oc­ca­sion even if there wasn’t quite 20,000 there.

It would al­ways be hard to fill a sta­dium that size and I don’t think any­one ex­pected 80,000.

But I’m sure peo­ple who have never seen rugby league be­fore who came to watch Sat­ur­day’s game will have loved it.

You could hear when the big hits were go­ing in that there was lots of whoop­ing from the fans and it sounded like they were gen­uinely sur­prised by the phys­i­cal­ity of it all.

And it was phys­i­cal, cer­tainly early on. I spoke to Scott Tay­lor af­ter the match and he did say the con­di­tions were very tough es­pe­cially that first 10 or 15 min­utes which is the hard­est part of the game. Peo­ple get their sec­ond wind and I know I used to think that first 15 or so was al­ways tough as ev­ery­one is run­ning at 100 miles per hour.

I’ve done it be­fore where I’ve looked up at the clock think­ing about half an hour had gone and then seen it said just 10 min­utes. You sud­denly re­alise there’s a lot of work still to be done!

But I thought it was a qual­ity Test match and Eng­land were ab­so­lutely su­perb.

I echo what Wayne Ben­nett said post-match about now mak­ing sure we build on it and we do go back, as agreed, for these next two years to give the Amer­i­cans three suc­ces­sive Tests; it has to have the chance to grow. It’s sim­i­lar to Robert El­stone with Su­per League; he needs time to put plans into place and it won’t hap­pen overnight.

But for the greater good of the game, this fix­ture has to go back to Amer­ica again or oth­er­wise what’s the point?

In terms of the match, that first half was re­ally com­pet­i­tive and the Ki­wis looked like the Ki­wis of old; they were of­fload­ing all the time, spread­ing the ball and keep­ing it alive. Bril­liant.

Esan Marsters was great on de­but at cen­tre and I wrote here last week about the ab­sence of Roger Tuiv­asa-Sheck be­ing a loss but Dallin Watene-Zelez­niak came in at full-back and was su­perb. But talk­ing about be­ing tired and those con­di­tions at al­ti­tude... I think prop Nel­son Asofa-Solomona did 50 min­utes straight and was out­stand­ing.

Of Eng­land’s debu­tants, it was great to see Tommy Makin­son cut loose a lit­tle bit and ob­vi­ously Jake Con­nor did bril­liantly.

It was just typ­i­cal of him. If it had been me, I’d have gone on and just wanted to make sure I didn’t make any mis­takes and did my job. But Jake en­ters the field and throws a dou­ble cut-out pass to give Ryan Hall enough space to score and then puts El­liott White­head over with an­other shorter pass be­fore break­ing away to score him­self.

I’m re­ally pleased for him. Ob­vi­ously he’s been out­stand­ing for us at Hull and I re­ally hope that’s whet­ted his ap­petite to make sure he’s in that Test side at the end of the sea­son as well.

As well as Jake did, though, I thought White­head was the best player on the field.

It might be my back-row bias but he was bril­liant. He does all the hard work – 30 or 40 tack­les – but is such a threat with the ball as well and runs such great lines.

For me, he’s been the best back-row in Eng­land – if not the world – for some time and is out­stand­ing for club and coun­try.

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